City Hires First Taxpayer Advocate
New York City recently hired Diana Leyden as the city’s first taxpayer advocate, a new position created by Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha. Leyden is a law professor from Connecticut and has run a free income-tax clinic for low-income taxpayers in Hartford for the past 16 years. According to the website, the purpose of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate is to help taxpayers solve their NYC tax issues after they’ve made attempts to fix them with the Department of Finance on their own.
The source of complaints to Ms. Leyden are likely to be the city’s web of 11 major categories of taxes, from property taxes to taxes on income, sales, corporations, real estate transfers, and mortgages. Then there is the unincorporated business tax, the cigarette tax, commercial-rent tax, and hotel-room-occupancy tax.
The biggest and most complex city tax is the city property tax. It’s on track to raise $22.3 billion this year, according to the city’s June financial plan. This tax generates the most complaints. The New York City tax commission, which handles formal legal challenges to assessment, received 52,221 applications in 2014 for $177.6 billion in tax bills and held 24,221 hearings last year.
The Office of the Taxpayer Advocate is independent from other parts of the Department of Finance. The Taxpayer Advocate reports directly to the Commissioner of Finance and can recommend policy changes or request that the Department of Finance take action on behalf of NYC taxpayers.
If your issue meets at least one of the following guidelines, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate can help you:
- You have made a reasonable attempt to solve your inquiry or complaint with the Department of Finance. Your inquiry or complaint has not been fixed or you have not received a timely response.
- You believe you can show that the Department of Finance is applying the tax laws, regulations, or policies unfairly or incorrectly, or has injured or will injure your Taxpayer Rights.
- You face a threat of immediate harmful action (e.g., seizure of your funds or property) by the Department of Finance for a debt you believe you can show is not owed.
- You face a threat of immediate harmful action (e.g., seizure of your funds or property) by the Department of Finance for a debt you believe you can show is incorrect, unfair, or illegal.
- You believe you can show that you will suffer damage that is beyond repair or a long-term harmful impact if relief is not granted.
- You believe you can show that your problem also affects other similar taxpayers and is a problem with the Department of Finance’s systems or processes.
- You believe you can show that the rare facts in your case justify help from the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.
- You believe you can show that there is a compelling public policy reason why you should get help from the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.
The Office of the Taxpayer Advocate cannot help you if:
- You have not made a reasonable attempt to obtain relief through normal Department of Finance channels, including contacting 3-1-1.
- You are asking for legal or tax return preparation advice.
- You are trying to file or have filed a case with the Tax Commission, Tax Appeals Tribunal, or a New York State court.
- You are appealing an unfavorable decision from the Tax Commission, Tax Appeal Tribunal, or New York State court.
- You are claiming that a NYC tax law or tax system violates the New York State or U.S. Constitution.
- The Taxpayer Advocate determines that the focus of your inquiry only involves frivolous strategies intended to avoid or delay filing or paying New York City taxes.