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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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HOW DO I KNOW IF MY NOT-FOR-PROFIT’S PROPERTY IS AT RISK?

Is our community property heading towards the 2018 Lien Sale?
Non Profit Owned Properties on the eligible for the 2018 Tax Lien Sale are listed here (this is the 60-day list, published 60 days before the May 17 deadline to be removed). (Download excel is here). The city plans to finalize the list on May 17, 2018. 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 below and a list that we are compiling that includes organization names here.

Find out if you are eligible for exemption using the Department of Finance’s new eligibility tool, part of their new micro-website for Non Profit administrators that was created in response to our collective advocacy.

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, DOFTaxpayeradvocate@finance.nyc.gov, (212) 312-1800

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

  • The NYC Department of Environmental Protection Ombudsperson: (718) 595-OMBU, ombuds@dep.nyc.gov
  • Director of Legal Services and Data Quality Assurance: (718) 595-5650, Andrewr@dep.nyc.gov

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 2019 Lien Sale?
Non Profit Owned Properties that need to renew their exemption for 2018 will soon be listed here. Here are the renewal instructions.

Is our community property at risk due to its debt being improperly sold in previous years?
This mostly happens due to property tax exemption mix ups, though some are also at risk because they have not paid their water bills. Find out if your place is at risk from having debt sold in previous years here.

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

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PRESS

The Council Must Protect Nonprofits from Lien Sales
City Limits | Rev. Richard Hartley | November 9, 2017

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

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APPLYING FOR PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS

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: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/finance/downloads/pdf/08pdf/not_for_profit_appl.pdf

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

RENEWING PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS

When do I have to submit my renewal application?
Every year. This year, renewal applications were due on December 27, 2017.

How do I submit my renewal and what information will I need?
You must submit your renewal applications online at www.nyc.gov/commercialexemptionsYou 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, or use this form.

WHO CAN HELP YOU GET AND MAINTAIN YOUR PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS?

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 nyc.gov/notforprofit. You can email notforprofit@finance.nyc.gov.

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

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:
Visit: nyc.gov/taxpayeradvocate
Email: DOFTaxpayeradvocate@finance.nyc.gov
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, www.bka.org, call (718) 487-2300, ask for Foreclosure Unit

Brooklyn Law School, (718) 780-7994, clinics@brooklaw.edu or CUBE@brooklaw.edu

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

New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, www.nylpi.org, (212) 244-4664

Lawyers Alliance for New York, www.lawyersalliance.org, (212) 219-1800, info@lawyersalliance.org

Your City Council Member
Visit http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml to find your City Council Member by entering your home address.

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

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I WANT TO HELP!

  1. ACT NOW TO CHANGE POLICY: Help pass Intro 0245, new legislation re-introduced by Councilmember Reynoso this February that will exempt nonprofit-owned properties from the tax lien sale. Let’s get it done before the 2018 sale is prepared this MayFind out how here, or simply share any of the articles under PRESS above and tag your councilmember, asking them to sponsor Intro 0245.
  2. REACH OUT TO PLACES IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD: We’ve found in-person visits to be most effective! Use the map and information above to hit the ground and get the word out.
  3. HELP PROTECT PLACES FROM ILLEGAL FORECLOSURE: Debt on these places was improperly sold to private speculators between 2011-2017. Follow these steps to protect places before speculators initiate foreclosure, which could lead to sale at auction to the highest bidder.
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