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MEDIA CONTACT:  Randolph Yunker  (516) 571-5048

January 3, 2007

ASSESSOR LEVINSON: "TAXPAYERS SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PAY THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN TAXES FOR NOT-FOR-PROFIT'S BOOKKEEPING OVERSIGHTS"

(Mineola, NY) Imagine if your neighbor forgot to file his or her tax return and the government asked you to pay his interest and penalties. Sound unreasonable? Yet, according to Chairman of the Board of Assessors Harvey Levinson, who is fighting to stop a longstanding practice, taxpayers in Nassau County are doing just that: Paying school and general taxes for not-for-profit organizations that purchased properties mid-year or failed to file the application that is required by law to secure tax-exempt status.

According to Assessor Levinson, not-for-profit organizations are required to file applications to secure or maintain a tax-exempt status on properties held each year. When an organization fails to file, the Department of Assessment must remove the tax-exempt status on the properties until an application can be properly processed and approved. Since these properties must be placed on the tax rolls until the not-for-profit meets its legal obligations, school and town budget officers include these properties in their tax calculations.

In an attempt to secure property tax-exempt status after the January 2 property exemptions filing deadline, many not-for-profit entities turned to state legislators to request special legislation (known as chapter bills) to “circumvent” the Nassau County Administrative Code §6-26(b)(3)(c) which does not authorize retroactive exemptions. As a matter of routine, the Department of Assessment (in the past) agreed to honor these chapter bills and granted retroactive exemptions.

“The bi-product of the retroactive exemptions included in chapter bills resulted in the county paying refunds (not counting interest, penalties and lien interest payments) of over $2.3 million dollars in taxes to school districts and towns over the last three years, even though the Department of Assessment did not cause the tax liability problem to begin with,” explained Chairman Levinson.

“The practice of granting retroactive exemptions to a not-for-profit entity shifted an unfair tax burden onto the county to pay back money it never collected,” Assessor Levinson stated. “As a matter of policy, I have advised all tax-exempt organizations and government entities that, beginning this year, I will no longer implement chapter bills that retroactively grant tax-exempt status to properties unless the school district and the town agree to waive their portion of the property taxes owed.

In cases where a Department of Assessment valuation was inaccurate, the county will continue to pay the refunds to property owners as is required pursuant to the “county guarantee” referenced in the Administrative Code.

“Many of the property tax liability issues surrounding not-for-profit organizations could and should have been addressed by their attorneys at the time of closing,” concluded Assessor Levinson. “The attorneys that represent these organizations should negotiate any purchase with the knowledge of assessment and tax deadlines, so that property tax issues can be addressed before they become a problem and unfair burden to homeowners and businesses throughout the county.”

PDF File Change in Tax-Exempt Status of Real Property (~ 156 kb .pdf file - 1 page)