Westchester property taxpayers facing financial hardship will have until July 15 to pay their tax bill without penalties if their town agrees to allow late payments.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order for Westchester County that would assist taxpayers because of the economic shutdown.
County Executive George Latimer said Tuesday the order allows him to negotiate with officials from participating municipalities a lower portion of a town’s tax payment to the county by May 25. Currently, towns are required to pay 65 percent of the money owed to the county by that deadline.
Participation by any town is voluntary, Latimer stressed.
“The benefit that we’re giving out is for the little guy, the guy in the middle, the person who lost their job or lost their business income and now faces an Apr. 30 deadline of property taxes and can’t come up with a lump sum given their circumstances, and that is something we feel is important,” Latimer said.
There are eligibility guidelines that a taxpayer must meet in order to take advantage of the penalty-free extension. Individuals must be eligible for the STAR program, have an income under $250,000 and show they have suffered significant income loss as a result of COVID-19.
Property owners who pay their mortgage and property taxes through an escrow account will not be eligible for the benefit.
Only businesses with annual revenues of less than $1 million can participate, Latimer said.
His announcement of the executive order came during a Tuesday afternoon briefing and four days after the Board of Legislators approved significantly reduced penalties for those who don’t pay their property tax bills in full by Apr. 30. Lawmakers agreed that taxpayers who wait until May would face a 0.5 percent penalty instead of 2 percent and a 1 percent penalty instead of 5 percent from June 1 to July 15.
It ran counter to Latimer’s original proposal earlier this month to have no penalties imposed until July 15. However, a contingent of supervisors argued that they would not have enough money to operate their towns and risked having taxpayers who are able to pay their bills delay their payments for up to two and a half months, further reducing their cash flow.
At the time, there was also no provision for the towns to reduce their tax obligation to the county.
At least one supervisor applauded the news on Tuesday. Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater, who pushed for the relief for those financially impacted nearly a month ago, said the town will participate because helping those in need makes sense.
“Having heard from many concerned taxpayers who are out of work and facing financial hardships, this is simply the right thing to do,” Slater said.
Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains), who also pushed for relief for taxpayers, agreed that it will help many residents throughout the county.
“For weeks I have been advocating to provide relief to taxpayers whose payments are coming due at a time when so many are struggling,” Buchwald said. “As a tax attorney, I have always believed in standing up for taxpayers and this executive order helps Westchester residents who have lost their jobs or been forced to shut down their businesses.”
Westchester Death Toll Surges Above 800
More than 30 county residents died on Monday from coronavirus-related illness, increasing the death toll to 809.
While Latimer provided the grim news on Tuesday, there are some positive signs. The number of active cases fell to 9,852, the first time in 12 days it is under 10,000. There are 1,074 hospitalizations in the county, down 120 cases from its high last week, he said.
Since the start of testing, there have been 24,656 out of more than 73,000 residents tested.
In Putnam County, there have been 831 positives, with 67 of those active cases, and 37 deaths, according to the state Department of Health.