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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Press Releases

April 15, 2015, Contact: Press Office (518) 474-4015

DiNapoli Proposal Would Provide More Accountability for Personal Income Tax Check-Off Funds

Despite Reforms, Tax Check-Off Money Still Sitting Idle

Legislation being proposed by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli would require the entities administering tax check off funds to improve efforts to spend dedicated contributions within the year they were made and report how the money was spent to the public and state officials.

“New Yorkers have contributed more than $50 million for worthy causes through check-offs on their personal income tax forms, but too much of this money remains unused when it should be fighting cancer, helping veterans, or recruiting firefighters and EMS volunteers,” DiNapoli said. “People who donate to these causes have a right to expect their money is being used efficiently and effectively to address these challenges. My bill will help make sure these funds are being put to good use in a timely manner.”

Currently, there are ten causes that New Yorkers can support through personal income tax check-offs, including fish and wildlife programs; missing and exploited children efforts; veterans’ causes; and disease research. Taxpayers will be able to contribute to a new Homeless Veterans Assistance fund starting with the 2015 tax year. 

A 2014 State Comptroller’s report found that over the previous five years, receipts for the funds reached $12 million, while expenditures were only $5.1 million. More than $14.6 million remained as accumulated balances in six check-off funds (excluding the Conservation Fund and the World Trade Center Memorial Fund) at the end of state fiscal year (SFY) 2012-13. No spending had occurred out of two funds – the prostate cancer check-off and the Volunteer Firefighting and EMS fund.

DiNapoli’s office recently looked at whether spending had improved from these tax check-off funds. At the end of SFY 2014-15, the accumulated fund balance in the original six funds examined in the 2014 report had increased to $15.45 million. Approximately 90 percent of this was in health-related dedicated funds – for research, detection and education for breast cancer and prostate cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s disease. An additional $177,100 had accumulated in two newer funds – Veterans’ Remembrance and Cemetery Maintenance and Operation, and Teen Health Education.

The more than $15 million sitting unused in the tax check-off funds reviewed is made up of contributions from taxpayers, transfers from the state’s General Fund, dedicated fees, interest and other revenues.

While several recent measures have helped make progress in ensuring the tax check-off funds are expended in a timelier manner, DiNapoli’s legislation would create more standardized and comprehensive reporting that would be beneficial in ensuring full transparency and accountability for the use of these funds. Requiring greater efforts to ensure that tax check-off funds are being spent would provide increased assurance to taxpayers that their contributions were providing the intended benefits as quickly as possible.

For the full legislation, see: Tax Check-Off Funds.

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