Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Comptroller Stringer Reveals Substantial Performance Improvements at DOF Following Multiple Audits of SCRIE Property Tax Abatement Credits

DOF performance improvements followed accepting recommendations from a prior audit that found widespread inadequate controls of tax abatement credits

  New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released an audit of the New York City Department of Finance’s (DOF) management of its property tax abatement credits (TACs) as part of the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE) that found the agency successfully implemented wide-ranging recommendations of a prior Comptroller’s Office audit by implementing reforms of its procedures for determining eligibility of tenants to participate in the SCRIE program. Between July 2009 and November 2010, an audit by the Comptroller’s Office revealed DOF issued more than $11.8 million in TACs on behalf of 3,801 deceased tenants with a subsequent audit in 2012 finding that DOF had retrieved approximately $9.8 million in inappropriately issued TACs.

This latest audit concluded that DOF adequately worked to ensure that TACs offered landlords equivalent subsidy on their property taxes to account for SCRIE-eligible tenants. It also found that DOF effectively revoked ineligible tenants’ benefits, retrieved TACs from landlords upon the passing of tenants, and correctly processed benefit takeovers in an effort to comply with the Comptroller’s previous audits of the agency’s practices. Based on these successful reforms, the audit recommended that DOF continue its trajectory of fine-tuning its policies and procedures to promote good government and transparency.
“This is why we scrutinize and ask the tough questions, and it’s a shining example of the positive change induced by our audits and our oversight work. Any time we can prevent waste and improve quality of services for New Yorkers, it’s a win-win,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “I commend DOF for implementing our recommendations and working to ensure that these benefits are used appropriately and tax dollars aren’t wasted.”
Following an audit period that reviewed a period spanning July 1, 2016 through February 28, 2018, in which DOF issued more than $239 million in new TACs on behalf of 58,279 tenants, Comptroller Stringer’s audit found that:
  • DOF developed clearly defined policies and procedures for agency staff, particularly those who administer the SCRIE program.
  • The agency instituted reforms in which responsibilities were divided up by different staff in varying departments by the various stages of the SCRIE program such as receipt and processing of applications, issuance of TACs, and review of appeals.
  • DOF staff matched the names of SCRIE recipients with those deceased based on the Social Security Administration Death Master File (SSADMF) index on a monthly basis to determine whether credits were issued to deceased New Yorkers.
  • DOF paid $13,944 in TAC benefits on behalf of six tenants whose incomes exceeded the required $50,000 threshold, of which $5,267 was retrieved by the agency, with the remaining $8,677 unable to be retrieved.
  • DOF has also implemented a control within its electronic processing system to be able to identify when an applicant’s income exceeded the allowable threshold to receive the rental subsidy.
To read Comptroller Stringer’s audit of DOF’s improved policies and procedures, click here.

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