Suffolk's tax refund system backed up by around 4 months partly due to cyberattack
The Suffolk County tax refund system is backed up by about four months in part because of the massive cyberattack.
Tens of millions of dollars in tax refund payments are delayed, though it is unclear how much the county owes.
Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy said his office is usually backlogged this time of year in making payments to those who successfully grieve their residential or commercial property-tax assessments.
However, new payments were not entered into the system for about 10 weeks due to the breach, exacerbating normal delays.
Kennedy says other aspects of county government are likely to be stalled because of the cyberattack.
"We only started to take in new payment requests from departments literally six days ago, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving," Kennedy said "The effects of the hack have been profound, they have been widespread and they will be ongoing well into 2023."
The county has paid out $32.5 million in tax refunds with only one month left in the year.
In 2021, the county paid out $47 million in tax refunds as a result of the Small Claims Assessment Review system and Article 7 tax assessment review proceedings, Kennedy said.
A spokesperson for the Suffolk County Executive’s Office said their financial management system was cleared for use on Oct. 7 by the Department of Information Technology and their team leading the forensic investigation.
The Comptroller’s Office first began using the system again in late October only to reconcile payments to county vendors that had been inputted before the cyberattack. During the first week of November, they began reconciling handwritten checks that were paid to vendors after the cyberattack on Sept. 8 and started processing new payments two weeks later.
The comptroller would like to move the financial system to the cloud. The proposal was supposed to be discussed during a committee meeting on Wednesday, but it has been put on hold.
Residents like new Hauppauge homeowner Radhika Sharma are planning to grieve their taxes soon. Her refund payment could be delayed due to the hack.
"I haven't been in that position yet but I feel bad for people who are going through it because right now everything is expensive," Sharma said "Everyone is look for extra income."
Tax grievance specialist Adam Heller, of Heller & Consultants Tax Grievance, says it could take a year or more for homeowners to get their checks. He says the best things for those individuals to do is to be patient.
"Wait for your property tax refund check," Heller said. "That's really hte only thing you can do."
Suffolk County will pay interest if individuals are made to wait over 90 days.
County Executive Steve Bellone said the cyberattack was carried out by a group called BlackCat, which steals sensitive data and threatens to release that information if a ransom is not paid.
A county spokesperson said they cannot comment on whether any ransom has been paid because of the ongoing forensic investigation into the breach.