While residents of Westchester may be able to prepay some of their upcoming tax bills prior to the new tax law going into effect, county taxes will not be among them.
“Westchester County has looked into the feasibility of having residents prepay their county taxes,” said Ned McCormack, senior adviser to Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino. “It is just not possible for the county to issue its 2018 tax warrants to localities within the next four days for a whole host of legal, operational and practical reasons.”
In Westchester County, unlike others across the state, the collection of the county’s property taxes is the responsibility of local municipalities. McCormack said that the county can only issue one complete warrant for the 259,034 properties across Westchester.
“There is no way to do this responsibly by the end of the year given all of the laws that the county must follow under Westchester’s charter and the U.S. tax code, as well as a host of other variables and unknowns,” he said.
Congress passed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act on Dec. 22, which will limit the amount of state and local deductions for the upcoming year. Under that new legislation, deductions for property and other state and local taxes are limited to $10,000.
That could affect some in Westchester, where residents pay an average of $16,500 per year, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
Cuomo soon after signed an executive order authorizing local governments to issue tax warrants for the collection of 2018 property tax prepayments. The order allows property owners to pay at least a portion of their tax bill before the end of the year. Both Rockland, Dutchess and Putnam counties have since approved warrants for town and county taxes to be prepaid.
Though Westchester County taxes will not be available for prepayment, other municipalities working to accommodate residents who hope to prepay their local taxes.
All of Westchester’s cities, including Yonkers, Peekskill, White Plains, New Rochelle and Rye, have announced that they are accepting prepayment of city taxes. In Mount Vernon, where prepayments will also be accepted, the city’s finance office is holding extended hours and will be open until 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Towns across Westchester have followed suit, including Bedford, Cortlandt, Ossining, North Castle, Harrison and Eastchester.
In Greenburgh, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said the town had processed hundreds of partial prepayments from residents and some staff had worked while on vacation or cut their planned trips altogether to accommodate. Bronxville and the village of Ossining are both accepting prepayment.
However, in Mount Kisco, prepayments of 2018 taxes are not being accepted, because the village operates on a June 1 to May 31 fiscal year.
“As a result, we do not have a budget or tax warrant established for the future fiscal year of June 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019,” Mount Kisco officials said in a statement. “Therefore, we are unable to take any prepayment of 2018 village taxes under this executive order or current state law.
That is also the case for villages including Scarsdale, Pleasantville, Tarrytown and Hastings-on-Hudson.
There’s a chance, though, that all of this scrambling could be for naught. Many officials noted that the final decision of whether those deductions would be allowed is in the hands of the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS weighed in on Wednesday, saying that prepaying 2018 state and local real property taxes in 2017 may be tax deductible under certain circumstances.
In general, the IRS said in a statement, the deduction for prepayments depend on whether the taxpayer makes the payment before year’s and the property taxes have been legally assessed prior to the beginning of the new year.
“A prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017,” the IRS said. “State or local law determines whether and when a property tax is assessed, which is generally when the taxpayer becomes liable for the property tax imposed.”