Selectmen approve tax extension for federal workers, send it to RTM

January 24, 2019

GREENWICH — A new state law is offering an extension on tax payments to all furloughed federal employees working without pay during the ongoing partial government shutdown. But implementing it in Greenwich will take a few more steps.

The Board of Selectman had initially hoped it could simply approve the town’s participation and allow for anyone affected by the shutdown to get an extension beyond next week’s deadline to pay property and vehicle taxes. But Town Attorney Wayne Fox has determined that the state also is requiring an approval from Greenwich’s Representative Town Meeting.

The selectmen did unanimously approve the extension on Thursday morning and said they hoped the RTM would do the same when it meets this coming Monday, Jan. 28.

“To me it’s a no brainer,” First Selectman Peter Tesei said.

Selectman Sandy Litvack also voiced strong support.

“I would think without knowing and I would be very surprised and disappointed if I were wrong that this is a unanimous view,” Litvack said. “No one is going to oppose this. How can anyone suppose it?”

The state law does not provide tax relief, persay, but it does provide a mechanism for an extension to be granted. It is unclear how many, if any, federal workers who are affected by the shutdown and are forced to either be furloughed at home or work without pay, live in Greenwich but if there are eligible people then they would not face the same deadline of having their taxes in by no later than Feb. 1.

Town Tax Collector Howard Richman said at Thursday’s Board of Selectmen meeting that a 60-day extension would be granted to federal workers in town. The extension would begin as soon as the shutdown ends and people return to work and if they get their taxes in by the end of the 60-day period they would not face interest payments on their outstanding balance.

“Otherwise interest would kick in as normal,” Richman said.

Richman said he agreed with Fox’s interpretation about the law but wished it was a simpler matter just so it would not have to wait until Jan. 28, especially with the Feb. 1 deadline looming.

“I’d rather have the vote go today if we could because getting on the RTM call Monday and getting it reviewed by all of their committees is going to string this thing out,” Richman said. “The idea I’ve gotten from conferring with a bunch of people in the County Tax Collector’s Association is the towns want to have it on the books before Feb. 1 so people affected by it can kind of breathe easier.”

The RTM was not originally supposed to meet next week. But a gas leak during the meeting this past Monday night forced Central Middle School to have to be evacuated and for the meeting to be suspended. It will be picked up again on Monday night at 8 p.m., once again at CMS.

Tesei said this could well be a case of “good happenstance.”

“This is fairly straight forward and can be put in a one paragraph synopsis and emailed out to everybody (on the RTM),” Tesei said. “You can tell everyone on the RTM that this is something that has come up due to current national circumstances and frankly will have negligible impact on the town’s finances but could have significant to the dozen or two dozen, if that, people who are federally employed and who live in the town and have property. It could be a handful of people but this will help.”

Richman said it was possible Greenwich residents work at the nearby White Plains airport as air traffic controllers or as TSA agents. And he agreed with Tesei that it would essentially be no loss to the town at all to grant the extension.

“It’s kind of like the theory in a football game,” Richman said. “You score the touchdown but the left tackle held and if the left tackle hadn’t held, you wouldn’t have scored the touchdown These people would have paid in theory. They would have paid their tax on or before Feb. 1 if they had an income but they didn’t. The town is not going to lose money because in theory they’re going to pay it a little further down the road but they will not be penalized.”


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