Capitol Watch: Tax refund redo, more students to Puerto Rico
By DAVID KLEPPER
Jul. 28, 2018
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, more college students could soon head to Puerto Rico to help the island recover from last year's hurricane.
Meanwhile, state auditors have stopped more than 10,000 state tax refunds after finding mistakes. The errors included incorrect information or questionable Social Security numbers.
A look at stories making news:
Five hundred students at SUNY or CUNY schools have traveled to Puerto Rico so far to volunteer on rebuilding projects as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's effort to assist the island territory.
Cuomo, a Democrat, now says the program will be expanded.
"We had over 3,000 applicants for the 500 spots," Cuomo told reporters. "We now think we can accommodate more students."
Cuomo said he is considering a proposal to make the program permanent. Students can receive class credit for the work, which Cuomo says gives them real-world experience and an opportunity to serve.
The state has also dispatched hundreds of utility workers, law enforcement, nurses and other professionals to assist.
On his most recent visit, Cuomo again blasted the response to the hurricane from Republican President Donald Trump's administration. Cuomo said Trump owes the people of Puerto Rico an apology.
"Mr. President, you were wrong," Cuomo said of the president's assertions that the recovery is going well. He said Trump should "come back to Puerto Rico: the island he disrespected. The island that his agencies failed to serve. Come back to Puerto Rico. Look for yourself."
State auditors have stopped more than 10,000 state tax refunds after finding mistakes.
The office of Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli routinely reviews a percentage of all tax returns submitted to the tax department to ensure returns were handled appropriately. This year, auditors examined some 25,000 returns and identified nearly $37 million in refunds that were flagged as potentially erroneous.
In most of them, the taxpayer had used the wrong numbers, such as an incorrect number of dependents. In some cases, the mistake was made by a tax preparer. Auditors stopped other returns after spotting questionable Social Security numbers or deductions.
The total amount of suspicious or erroneous refunds was typical, according to audits in past years. The state collected more than $47 billion in income tax last year.
The Senate committees on labor and economic development will meet Aug. 13 in Vestal in the Southern Tier for a public hearing focused on state efforts to boost the number of minority and women-owned businesses in the state.