Taxpaying citizens should approve of a new state program in this year’s budget that took effect on Monday and is designed to snag tax scofflaws.
New York State is now able to suspend driver’s licenses of those delinquent by more than $10,000 on their state taxes.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has it right when he says “…tax scofflaws who don’t abide by the same rules as everyone else are not entitled to the same privileges as everyone else.”
The threat alone of losing their driving privileges should have some effect on those who have for years flouted the law. People often covet their freedom to drive. Taking away these delinquents’ car keys should send the right message to those who would have others bear the burden of the state’s increasing costs.
Currently, 16,000 New Yorkers are categorized in the tax scofflaw camp. In Erie County, 451 drivers owe a total of $24.6 million. In Niagara County, 65 drivers owe $2.8 million, according to the Cuomo administration.
Of course, there is a version of the state’s “Most Wanted” list of tax delinquents. Among the top 100, only two are in Western New York, each owing at least a million dollars. The majority of the top 100 tax offenders are in New York City and its nearby suburbs, as well as Albany County.
Scofflaws can arrange a payment plan with the tax department. Missing that deadline means a suspended driver’s license, although the program allows those subject to license suspensions to keep driving for work-related reasons. For some, not driving will be the least of their problems.
Making these scofflaws accountable has to bring some satisfaction to the 96 percent – whether voluntarily or as the result of an audit – who pay their taxes. The driver’s license penalty program will certainly help, even just a bit, the state’s bottom line to the tune of $26 million this year and about $6 million annually going forward.
Reasonable explanations exist for some who get into tax trouble. Perhaps a lost job or medical expense. Or a misunderstanding of tax obligations, or preparation by the individual or someone else that let slip some error.
And then there are people who just don’t care. Hopefully, this program will cut down on those who would rather have someone else pick up the bill.