As last-minute taxpayers raced to meet Tuesday's deadline, the State Senate today passed legislation (S.917) sponsored by Senator Hugh T. Farley (R,C - Schenectady) which would exempt over a half-million New Yorkers from having to file State income tax returns.
"Because of New York's archaic income tax filing threshold, about 530,000 people who owe no taxes and are due no refunds are still required to file State tax returns. This is not only confusing and costly for these individuals -- most of whom are senior citizens -- but it costs the State over $1 million in taxpayer money to process this irrelevant and unnecessary paperwork," Senator Farley explained.
Under a two-decades-old law, all New York residents with federal adjusted gross incomes over $4,000 must file a State income tax return, regardless of whether they owe any taxes. Senator Farley's bill would exempt people whose New York adjusted gross income is less than their standard deduction since, by definition, they owe no tax. This year, standard deductions for most people range from $7,500 to $15,000 depending on filing status. People due a refund could still file a return in order to claim their refund.
Since New York exempts the first $20,000 of pension and annuity income received by senior citizens from State income taxes, most of the people who are unnecessarily required to file returns are elderly. "Tax preparers and volunteers working with seniors have pointed out this hardship and confusion for older citizens," Senator Farley noted.
If Senator Farley's bill were to become law, it would first affect returns due in April 2008. Following Senate passage, the bill now goes to the Assembly.