Commentary

If vendor hired by town did not send out tax bills, should late paying taxpayers be charged a penalty? I don’t think so. Others disagree

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July 22, 2021

Should the Town Board waive penalties on late tax payments if a taxpayer did not pay the tax bill on time due to a  a vendor’s computer glitch?

The issue came up after many taxpayers complained to town officials that they did not receive the tax bill from the town. We investigated the matter. Our MIS department confirmed that hundreds of taxpayers did not get the tax bill because of a computer glitch caused by the vendor we hired. As a result – late paying taxpayers are being charged a 5% penalty. I don’t think this is fair.

Those who disagree with my views point out  that NYS law states that taxpayers are responsible for payment of bills whether the municipality sent them a bill or not. There is even an opinion of the State Comptroller (67-830) stating that “penalties and interest for late payment of taxes cannot be waived where the initial payment of the taxes were lost in the mail.”  The Town Board and other Town Boards around the area have not waived penalties  in the past. We have waived penalties relating to the development of affordable housing however. And we offered an amnesty before a foreclosure proceeding once.

The state law authorizes waivers if it is “in the best interests of the town”.  The Town Attorney has advised the Town Board that the Town Board has “broad discretion so long as reasons for such waiver have been outlined in a Town Board resolution.”

I believe that we should –at the minimum –reduce the penalties to 2% or even waive the penalties because the mistake was made by an agent of the town (a vendor we hired).Those taxpayers who paid the penalty should get a refund.  Many taxpayers rely on receiving bills in the mail each September, January and April tax collection months. They did not receive the bill this time due to our error. Others believe that waiving penalties would set a bad precedent.  A link to the discussion  at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting is below. Your thoughts to townboard@greenburghny.com are appreciated. 

The Town Board will make a decision on Tuesday, July 28 at our Town Board meeting. Two members of the Town Board were unable to attend last nights meeting so a decision on this matter was not made on Tuesday.

Another suggestion I have —I plan to introduce a resolution asking the Town Board to purchase lawn signs that would be placed at key locations during each tax collection month reminding people to pay their taxes by the end of the month so they can avoid penalties. If reminders are placed around the town (including the villages) fewer people would forget to pay taxes on time.

Town Board discussion 7/20/2021 – https://youtu.be/zT9_RTPCIKg

PAUL FEINER

Greenburgh Town Supervisor

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