Angry New Yorker

Friday, October 24, 2003
Mayor: Reconsider Tax Surcharge
By Dan Janison
Staff Writer, Newsday,0,1021354,print.story

October 23, 2003, 4:15 PM EDT

Mayor Michael Bloomberg today said that the absentee-landlord tax imposed by the city may be unfair -- and suggested it be reconsidered in his next budget talks with the City Council.

The mayor was reacting to a report in Newsday [that the law meant to hit those who profit from rooming houses and the like could sock tens of thousands of mere homeowners with an unjustified 25 percent surcharge.

"It is a very difficult tax to administer," the mayor told reporters in a midtown Manhattan press conference. "It's not clear that it's fair and it's not clear that you aren't burdening those who already have too great a tax burden as it is."

But the mayor signed it July 14 at the insistence of Council leaders who pushed for the levy, which its staff estimates is worth $44 million a year in city revenues, to help fill a huge deficit.

Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who championed the proposal, was expected to respond later in the day.

For the moment, Bloomberg suggested a measure that will protect those who are not absentee landlords: signing up for the state STAR program which gives exemptions only to those who live in their primary residences.

Officials say the Finance Department has little other way than these optional exemptions to distinguish absentees from other property owners . The law as writtten puts the burden on homeowners to prove they are NOT absentee landlords.

"Next time we pass a budget in the City Council, maybe it is time, if we're going to reduce taxes, to start there. And I hope we can reduce taxes."

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