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A.G. Schneiderman introduces Tax Relief for Active Military Service Act

by jmaloni

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Mon, Nov 11th 2013 01:00 pm

Attorney general's bill will provide property tax exemptions to active-duty military service members who own homes in New York

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has proposed new legislation to ease the burdens of home ownership on members of the armed services and their families. Attorney General Schneiderman's Tax Relief for Active Military Service Act would allow New Yorkers who serve on active duty in the military, or their spouses, to apply for a tax exemption on 10 percent of the assessed value of their homes. This exemption from local and county property taxes would be capped at $10,000 in home value in most parts of the state. Active-duty service members who serve in combat zones could receive an additional 10 percent exemption, capped at $8,000 in home value. The exemption would apply to members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Reserves. 

"Soldiers and their families make tremendous sacrifices on behalf of all Americans," Schneiderman said. "Just as they fight for us, New York state can support these brave men and women by easing the burdens of home ownership."

Under Schneiderman's TRAMS Act, service members or their spouses could apply to their local tax assessment officials and could prove eligibility using a copy of the service member's current deployment orders. The state would reimburse counties and localities for revenues lost by granting the exemption, at an estimated cost to the state of approximately $2 million per year. The value of the exemption would vary across the state, as it is based on the value of individual homes, and different localities charge different property tax rates. For most service members, it would amount to several hundred dollars each year. Over a lifetime of home ownership, it could be worth much more. 

New York is home to just under 25,000 active-duty members of the military. These brave men and women offer to serve their country, often at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. Yet the rates of home ownership among New Yorkers who serve in the armed forces are quite low. While approximately 54 percent of New Yorkers own their homes, only 32 percent of military service members do. Home ownership can confer benefits upon the homeowner and his or her family, offering tax and financial benefits and facilitating long-term wealth creation. Home ownership can also help the surrounding community, including by improving health and school performance for children, increasing civic engagement and volunteerism, and reducing crime. 

Schneiderman's bill utilizes as a model the real property tax exemption afforded to veterans under Section 458-a of New York's Real Property Tax Law. That exemption follows a similar structure, but offers slightly more generous benefits to veterans who have "finished" their service. Active-duty military members who take advantage of the newly offered tax exemption under the TRAMS Act could "graduate" to the more generous veterans' exemption already offered by Section 458-a of the Real Property Tax Law upon completion of their service. 

New York State Sen. Lee Zeldin said, "I thank the attorney general for his work on this legislation. As a major in The U.S. Army Reserves and a veteran myself, I understand firsthand the sacrifices our servicemen and women make to protect our nation and uphold our Constitution. Anything to help ease the burden on our military members, and their families especially, speaks volumes to the value we place on their service and the genuine appreciation we have for that sacrifice."

New York State Sen. Daniel Squadron said, "Our service members give so much for our state and our country. It's time to ensure we're giving them and their families the tools to make a life here at home. Together with our push to make sure all veterans have access to property tax relief, extending the benefits to active duty members will be an important step toward the support our service members deserve. Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for your leadership."

New York State Sen. Adriano Espaillat said, "It is heartbreaking and unacceptable that families who have committed to serving our country are struggle financially. Military families are under incredible strain, and the TRAMS Act will offer them critical assistance to help pay the bills and provide for their children. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for leading the charge to correct this injustice and ensure New York's heroes are given the support they need and deserve. Working together, I am optimistic we can get this urgent legislation passed into law next session."

New York State Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said, "I applaud the Attorney General for this proposal that would greatly benefit our service men and women and help them achieve the dream of homeownership. As chair of the State Assembly Veteran Affairs Committee, I will work to see that we move swiftly to pass this bill in our Chamber."

New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin said, "We are eternally grateful for everything that our veterans have done for us and, as a result, have made it possible for local municipalities to extend them a property tax exemption. But what about our servicemen and women who are still on active duty? Don't they deserve the same consideration? I certainly think so. This bill would extend that same help to those on active duty and make their situations just a bit easier."

Paul Rieckhoff, founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said, "Those who have shouldered the burden of our nation's most recent wars should be able to access all eligible benefits, including home ownership assistance. IAVA is proud to be working with our local members in New York, the attorney general's office, state legislators, and local tax offices to ensure that veterans and active duty service members are getting the right information and are taking advantage of all of the benefits to which they have earned."

Schneiderman's commitment to ensuring New York is a welcoming home to veterans and service men and women has been longstanding. Last month, upon learning that some veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were being wrongly denied a valuable property tax exemption to which they are entitled, Schneiderman wrote a letter to local tax officials across the state clarifying the law and instructing them to apply the exemptions correctly and uniformly. As a member of the New York State Senate, Schneiderman sponsored legislation to ensure veterans received these same tax exemptions, and he also sought to extend them to active-duty members of the military. 

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