New York City’s property-tax system needs to be changed to prevent false document filings, a state grand jury found.
The grand jury’s report, announced today by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., examined the filing of false documents and information about properties including rentals, condominiums, cooperatives, hotels and parking garages. Authorities don’t have enough power to deter false filings and face a high cost to investigate them, the grand jury said.
“Some unscrupulous individuals and entities routinely try to cheat the city out of this valuable revenue stream by filing false information with city agencies,” Vance said in a statement. Property taxes are New York’s single biggest revenue source, he said.
The report makes seven recommendations, including civil sanctions for false filing, new technology to detect property tax fraud and changes to the criminal law that would make some tax offenses felonies.
The proposed changes cover Real Property Income and Expense statements, which are required for any property assessed at greater than $40,000. This year’s deadline for such forms to be filed is Sept. 4.
The grand jury recommended setting the annual deadlines in June, giving more time to evaluate information in the filings, and the City Council recently introduced legislation to implement that change, according to Vance’s statement.
Property owners would also be asked to make a sworn statement about the truthfulness of their filings, allowing those who lie to be prosecuted for perjury.
“Everyone is hurt when false filings lead to inaccurate assessments, and some property-owners don’t pay their fair share of the tax burden,” said Glenn Newman, president of the city tax commission.
The grand jury report stemmed from an investigation by Vance’s office into false filings. One study the grand jury looked at showed 60 percent of property owners failed to report income from signs posted on their property in documents seeking to lower their taxes.