The New York City Department of Finance has released a new “NYC Taxpayer Bill of Rights” on its website. The Bill of Rights identifies 10 categories of taxpayer rights, and elaborates on those rights. Some of the rights reflect substantive changes in the Department’s operations. For instance, one category is “the right to challenge the Department’s position and be heard.” Under that category, taxpayers now “have the right to receive, in writing, an explanation of why the Department of Finance does not agree with your position” or “does not accept your documents.” The release of the new NYC Bill of Rights coincides with the creation of an Office of the Taxpayer Advocate and the recent appointment of Diana Leyden as the New York City Taxpayer Advocate.
The NYC Taxpayer Bill of Rights is a welcome and overdue initiative. Interestingly, the Department previously had a Taxpayer Bill of Rights for many years, but it inexplicably was removed from the Department’s website a few years ago, causing some practitioners to wonder why. Unlike the more comprehensive Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights contained in Article 41 of the Tax Law, which applies to taxes administered by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, the NYC Taxpayer Bill of Rights is not statutorily mandated. Committing it to law would be a worthwhile goal.
It is also interesting that certain rights in the former NYC Bill of Rights are changed in the new Bill of Rights. For instance, there is no longer an explicit right not to be subject to “collection quotas” by the Department. Also, under the former Bill of Rights, the only exception to the taxpayer’s right to confidentiality was that taxpayer information could be shared with certain other government agencies “under strict legal guidelines.” The new right to confidentiality contains an exception for taxpayer information that can be shared outside the Department as “allowed by law,” but does not specify what those statutory exceptions are.