Suffolk aims for tax relief through charitable contributions

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Monday signed a new measure aimed at providing tax relief.

Stephen Weiss, of Melville, saw a big swing in his federal income taxes this year. One reason, experts say, is because of the new $10,000 cap on the amount of local taxes that can be deducted. Many Long Islanders have property taxes well above that.

To help soften that blow in the future, Bellone says the county will set up a so-called charitable reserve gift fund. He says homeowners will be allowed to write a check to the fund that will be applied to both their tax bill and be used as a deduction.

"Under existing federal tax law, contributions to the county fund can be claimed as a charitable contribution on an individual tax return," Bellone says.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a similar measure statewide in response to the federal tax changes. But the IRS quickly ruled it wouldn't allow it.

Woodbury accountant Anthony Basile doesn't see the IRS allowing Bellone's measure, either.

"The problem is, is that the charitable preservation fund that they would be setting up would be paying your property taxes and negating, under every regulation...your ability to deduct that as a charitable contribution," Basile says.

But Suffolk officials say the county would go to court over the issue if necessary.

Weiss says if he gets any more whopping tax bills like this year, his family is ready for big changes, including moving out of state.

Suffolk is the first New York county to attempt establishing such a measure.

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