City Past Deadline To Apply for Business Tax Breaks

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The New York Sun

New York City is five months past the deadline to apply to Albany to designate 10 Empire Zones – areas that offer qualifying businesses large state tax breaks and credits.

According to the new Empire Zone law, passed in April 2005, all 73 existing Empire Zones in the state (three new ones were also added) had to send in a revised application, including a detailed map of the zone’s boundaries and a justification for the area designated. Those steps were required before the zones could start accepting new businesses into the program. Businesses that had already been approved in years past could continue receiving the benefits.

Only one other zone statewide other than the 10 in New York City has not yet sent in its application.The deadline was January 1.

The delay has prevented new businesses from taking advantage of the tax benefits offered by the program.

Each of the 10 city zone coordinators were asked to draw up their boundaries and write a justification and then pass them along to the director of the city’s Empire Zone program,Yoonie Cho, who would then finalize the maps using geo graphic information systems software.

Benjamin Branham, a spokesman for the Department of Small Businesses Services, a city agency that oversees the city’s Empire Zones, said that all the mapping has been completed and that they are waiting for four of the zones to finish sending in some last minor information,which they hope to get soon.

Mr. Branham said that the main factor causing the delay was that the city was trying to integrate the areas of the Empire Zones with its new industrial business zones – a similar program also offering tax incentives for businesses to move into economically depressed areas – in order to offer businesses “the most bang for their buck.” The city program was ratified two months ago.

Ms. Cho said that discrepancies between the geographic information systems software that the city uses and the one that the state uses have contributed to the delay.

Some zone coordinators said they’ve been unhappy with the delays. “The whole process has slowed down substantially,” said Kristin Jones, coordinator of the North Brooklyn zone. “It’s been very frustrating for us and for the businesses.”

The coordinator of the East New York zone,Bill Wilkins,said that the delays are understandable. “It’s a monumental process.We need to redesignate all of our zone acreage. That doesn’t happen overnight.”

Some zone coordinators said that a 33% statewide cut to the program two years ago has made it more difficult for them to get so much work done on tighter budgets.

Some coordinators said they have been advising businesses not to fill out an application until their zones are approved, but others have already received applications. “It’s frustrating for them,” said Janet Henriquez, coordinator of the Far Rockaway zone. “Imagine you put all of this work into this to get benefits” only to have to wait months for it.

The New York Sun

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