Website of the Month: New York State Department of Taxation and Finance

By Anders, Susan B. | The CPA Journal, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Website of the Month: New York State Department of Taxation and Finance


Anders, Susan B., The CPA Journal


In The CPA Journal's 2013 annual tax software survey (see p. 20), state tax websites received more ratings than almost all of the commercial tax research products. In addition, the overall rating for state tax websites considerably improved from 2012. One such resource, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) website (http://www.tax.ny.gov), provides access to a large variety of tax tools for both individual and business taxpayers, as well as tax professionals.

In addition to forms, form instructions, and publications, the site also provides a broad mix of news, sales and withholding tax filing tools, tax filing due dates, event calendars, and video demonstrations. Users can learn how to file formal and informal protests against tax department actions, as well as submit an offer in compromise to settle unpaid taxes. The DTF website offers information on local government property tax regimes, as well as statistical table and report summaries that can be downloaded for personal income tax, corporate tax, sales tax, and other topics.

The website is organized into four major resource categories-individuals, businesses, tax professionals, and government and researchers-to provide efficient navigation and easy access to tools and information, with many items available in multiple locations. In addition to the main categories, the homepage also features resources categorized as online services, popular topics, and news and press releases. Users can access a collection of links that focus on issue resolution, such as information on the taxpayer rights advocate and online power of attorney authorization.

Guidance, Regulations, and Laws

Located under the popular topics tab, this section provides a link to a page with the consolidated laws of New York. From there, users can search through the tax laws (e.g., Article 9 for corporation tax, Article 22 for personal income tax, Article 28 for sales and use tax). Secondary sources-publications and tax bulletins-address specific topics in simplified language and are searchable by topic or document number. Publications are generally multiple-page PDFs and enable users to access tax forms and other documents; tax bulletins are shorter discussions provided in webpage format with links to related resources.

Technical memoranda (TSB-M) are short documents that address changes to the law, regulations, or DTF policies, usually for specific taxes; for example, a recent TSB-M covered tax information for same-sex married couples. Important notices (N-Notice) announce a singular event, such as an update to a previously issued tax form or instruction, or quarterly and annual sales tax and other rate adjustments. Advisory opinions (TSB-A) are similar to federal private letter rulings and are limited to the facts provided by the requesting taxpayer. TSB-As are only binding for the specific taxpayer, assuming the facts were fully and accurately disclosed. Although tax guidances (NYT-G) have not been issued with regularity since 2008, they present informational statements of the DTF's interpretation (based upon specific facts and circumstances) of the law, regulations, and department policies.

Reference and Research Publications

The Handbook of New York State and Local Taxes-an annual publication of the Office of Tax Policy Analysis (OTPA)- provides a broad overview of state taxation (e.g., personal income tax, business taxes, sales and use taxes, excise taxes, property transfer taxes) and taxes assessed by local authorities (e.g., property taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes, property transfer taxes). The annual summary includes New York City, Yonkers, and Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) taxes.

The handbook presents brief summaries, rather than detailed guidance, on various taxes. For example, the 2012 edition only spans about 50 pages, and it covers personal income taxes, filing requirements, standard deduction amounts, and rate schedules; it also includes short descriptions of more than a dozen tax credits. …

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