Questions about not-for-profit tax exemptions

Not-for-profit corporations hold property in service of their missions: they own buildings that house day cares and mosques, arts organizations and churches, food pantries and theaters; they own land for community gardens, playgrounds and farms. State Law is clear that they are all entitled to property tax exemptions from the date they purchase the property.

But New York City’s taxation system puts community property at risk: when such organizations do not apply for and annually renew the tax exemptions they are entitled to get from the City under New York State law, the City sells the accumulated debt to private entities for collection and potential foreclosure.

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Is our community property heading towards the 2017 Lien Sale?
Non Profit Owned Properties on the eligible for the 2017 Tax Lien Sale are listed here (this is the 10-day list). (Excel is here). The city is planning to sell their liens on May 12, 2017. Most are on this list due to property tax exemption mix ups, though some are there because they have not paid their water bills. You can see a map of them and a list that we are compiling (which includes organization names) here.

Our property is on the list! What do we do?
If your organization has property tax debt heading to the lien sale, call these two offices in the Department of Finance IMMEDIATELY and ask that your organization’s property be TAKEN OFF THE LIST:

  • The NYC Department of Finance, Tax Lien Ombudsperson: (212) 440-5408
  • The NYC Department of Finance, Office of the Taxpayer Advocate,, (212) 312-1800

If your organization has water and sewer debt heading to the lien sale, call the Department of Environmental Protection Ombudsperson IMMEDIATELY and ask that your organization’s property be TAKEN OFF THE LIST:

  • The NYC Department of Environmental Protection Ombudsperson: (718) 595-OMBU,

For more information about water debt, look at the DEP Application for Exemption from
Water and Sewer Charges.

Is our organization’s property heading towards the 2018 Lien Sale?
Non Profit Owned Properties that need to renew their exemption for 2017 year are listed hereThese properties will be headed to the 2018 lien sale if the exemptions are not renewed. The exemption renewal deadline has been extended to May 1, 2017. Here are the renewal instructions.

Please check for places that matter to your communities and help connect advocates and organizers!



New Bill Would Protect Hundreds of NYC Community-Owned Properties
Next City | Oscar Abello | June 26, 2017

Not-for-Profits Facing Tax & Water Liens Get Reprieve from City
City Limits | Jarrett Murphy | June 2, 2017

City delays tax lien sales for houses of worship, other nonprofits
The Real Deal | Will Parker | June 1, 2017

City must stop tax-lien sale or erroneous bills will trigger foreclosures

Crains| Paula Z. Segal | May 9, 2017

Hundreds Of Nonprofits At Risk Of Having Their Tax Debt Sold—Even Though Many Should Likely Be Tax Exempt
Gothamist | Nathan Tempey | May 9, 2017

New York City Must Prevent Nonprofit Properties from Falling to Private Capital
City & State New York | Josh Bisker | May 3, 2017

Tax Trouble for Hundreds of City Non-Profits as Lien Sale Nears
City Limits | Jarrett Murphy | April 14, 2017

Tax Lien Sale Threatens Hundreds of NYC Nonprofits
Next City | Oscar Abello | March 24, 2017

Opinion: City Must Remove Nonprofits from Tax Lien Sale
Gotham Gazette | Richard Semegram | January 6, 2017

For Sale: Nonprofits
Urban Omnibus | D.W. Gibson | November 9, 2016

CityViews: Stop the Tax-Lien Sales That Will Destroy Community Gardens
City Limits | Paula Z. Segal | May 10, 2016



I have to APPLY for property tax exemptions?
Yes! Property tax exemptions are NOT automatic in NYC, even if an organization is exempt from federal income taxes.

Where can I find the application?
It’s here:

How do I submit my application?
Print, fill out and mail the application and materials to:

New York City Department of Finance
Commercial Exemptions–NFP
59 Maiden Lane, 22nd Floor
New York, NY 10038


When do I have to submit my renewal application?
Every year. This year, renewal applications are due on May 1, 2017 (deadline extended!).

How do I submit my renewal and what information will I need?
You must submit your renewal applications online at will need your user ID and password that was included in a letter sent by the Department of Finance in October. If you did not receive a letter in October with this information call 311 and ask to speak with a representative in the Not-for-profit Tax Exemptions Unit.


You! Do you know an organization that owns a property that should be tax exempt? Don’t assume that it is. Find out from the administrators and help them apply for and keep the exemption that will save the community thousands of dollars.

Many small not-for-profits have never applied for available property tax exemptions due to a lack of information; their members simply pay property taxes as billed to them every year. In many cases, individual members actually receive and pay the bills for years or decades out of personal funds because they see the risk of losing their church, garden or other key community property as too great and have never realized that other options exist. When those members move away, die or stop paying for personal reasons, community anchors are threatened. The tax lien sale allows properties acquired through charity and public money to become private properties when buyers of the tax debt foreclose.

NYC Department of Finance, Commercial Exemptions, Not-for-Profit Unit
For help with property tax exemption applications and renewals, or if you receive a tax bill that you think you should not have received, call 311 and ask for the “Department of Finance Not-for-Profit Tax Exemptions Unit.” Their website is You can email

The NYC Department of Finance, Tax Lien Ombudsperson
If you receive a notice of a pending tax lien, call (212) 440-5408. See

The NYC Department of Finance, Office of the Taxpayer Advocate
When you are having trouble with the Department of Finance Exemptions Unit, the Ombudsperson or any other part of the Department:
Call: (212) 312-1800

Legal Services
If facing a foreclosure proceeding; they might not be able to represent you, but may be able to refer you to an attorney who will:

Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A,, call (718) 487-2300, ask for Foreclosure Unit

Brooklyn Law School, (718) 780-7994, or

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts,, (212) 319-2787

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest,, (212) 244-4664

Lawyers Alliance for New York,, (212) 219-1800,

Your City Council Member
Visit to find your City Council Member by entering your home address.

New York City Office of the Public Advocate
(212) 669-7250
1 Centre Street, 15 Floor North, New York, NY 10007
Walk-in hours: Monday-Thursday, 10:00 am-4:00 pm



  1. ADD YOUR NAME: Sign and share this online petition to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha to take community properties and vacant lots out of the tax lien sale
  2. SPREAD THE WORD: Share any of the articles under PRESS, above. Tag the Mayor on social media and ask him to protect our community properties and neighborhoods from the tax lien sale by removing tax-exempt properties and vacant lots!
  3. ENCOURAGE OUR ELECTED ADVOCATES:a. Call your NYC Council Members: 17 Council Members sent letters to the Department of Finance calling for the Department of Finance to remove vacant lots and community properties: Council Member Ben Kallos (whose office coordinated the letter), Antonio Reynoso, Stephen Levin, Debi Rose, Corey Johnson, Rafael Espinal, Laurie Cumbo, Mark Treyger, Chaim Deutsch, Robert Cornegy, Jr., Carlos Menchaca, Dan Garodnick, Rosie Mendez, Ritchie Torres, Margaret Chin, and Bill Perkins signed one letter, and Council Member Alan Maisel sent the same letter four days later. If your Council Member signed the letter, call and thank them! If yours hasn’t signed on yet, call and ask them to speak out. Find their numbers here.b. Call your Borough President: If you live in Brooklyn, call and thank Borough President Eric Adams for speaking up! If your live in another borough, call your Pres and ask them to request DOF remove nonprofit-owned properties and vacant lots from the 2017 tax lien sale. Find their numbers here.“Simply put, houses of worship and non-profits should not be caught in the same tax lien sale net as other properties. At a time when underserved communities find themselves relying on charitable organizations more and more, with those organizations stretched thinner and thinner, we should making a greater effort to help the helpers.” — Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, May 8, 2017 c. Call the Public Advocate: Thank PA Letitia James at (212) 669-7200. Ask her to continue to champion protecting our nonprofit-owned properties from the 2017 lien sale.

    “Our charitable institutions and houses of worship are exempt from property taxes and should not be put at risk of foreclosure at the hands of a private bank because of paperwork errors and administrative inefficiencies. Yet, tax liens on over 300 properties owned by non-profits, many of which are houses of worship, are set to be sold in this week’s tax lien sale. In the current financial climate, many of these buildings may wind up in foreclosure or forced into a quick sale. I’m calling for the City to remove all tax-exempt non-profits from the impending tax lien sale, and place each property into HPD’s Landlord Ambassador Program. We must be vigilant about protecting those organizations on the front lines in our communities.” — Public Advocate Letitia James, May 11, 2017


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