Tax Refunds Biased Against Women

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In a story entitled “Tax refunds show bias tilted toward men” the Albany Times Union reports:

…[NY] state has been mailing out $675 million in rebates through the STAR, or School Tax Relief program, since Sept. 18. But many checks are made out to only one person in a household — usually the husband — because the state is relying on property deed records that sometimes are decades old.

Banks often will not allow a spouse or other property co-owner to get cash if their name isn’t listed on the check. And that can create an even bigger headache when there are marital problems, or when a husband has died.

“It upsets any woman. It doesn’t seem right,” Carol Decker, a widow in Angola near Buffalo, said in Friday’s Buffalo News.

Although her husband died in 1994, both their names are still listed on the deed.

In recent days, the newspaper said, tax assessors’ offices have been flooded with complaints.

“We were inundated with calls because the banks won’t accept the checks,” said Bruna Michaux, Buffalo commissioner of assessment and taxation. “There’s got to be a way to resolve this for the property owner, because it’s not their fault. That’s a lot of money to them.”

The state determined the primary owner of properties using data compiled by local municipalities and tax assessors. But many of the deeds dated back to the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s — and deeds back then often listed only a husband’s name along with “wife” or “one” for another co-owner.

“All we can work on is the information we’re getting from the local assessment rolls,” said state Taxation and Finance spokesman Thomas Bergin.

In the meantime, officials are trying to help taxpayers.

The state’s STAR Web site says consumers unable to cash a check should file a rebate application with the correct information and return it along with the voided check to the Department of Taxation and Finance.

Via Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog.

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