Healthcare workers who have volunteered to help the state of New York manage its staggering number of coronavirus cases are not qualified for any tax breaks, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.
“We’re not in a position to provide any more subsidies right now because we have a $13 billion deficit,” Cuomo said in a news conference, adding that even if he wanted to give a tax break to the volunteer health workers, it would be an “irresponsible” move on his part as governor.
“So, there’s a lot of good things I would like to do, and if we get federal funding, we can do, but it would be irresponsible for me to sit here looking at a $13 billion deficit and say, ‘I’m going to spend more money when I can’t even pay the essential services,” he added. (Related: A warning to the world? New York now scrambling to address Coronavirus outbreak.)
According to Cuomo, New York needs federal aid to cover the budget deficits that resulted from the virus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, before spreading to the rest of the world.
“If we don’t get more money from Washington, we can’t fund schools, right, so at the rate, we want to fund them. We are in dire financial need,” he said.
This means that the volunteer health workers pooled from all across the nation, will have to pay New York-rate taxes throughout the duration of their stay — even on income that they might make from their home states that they’re paid while in New York.
New York is known for having one of the highest income tax rates in the nation, with the top marginal income tax rate pegged at 8.8 percent.
According to news outlet WPIX-TV, the issue of outside health care workers being required to pay state income tax was brought to light during the construction of a temporary hospital in Central Park by the non-profit charity group Samaritan’s Purse.
Ken Isaacs, vice president of Samaritan’s Purse, said it was first brought to his attention by their organization’s financial comptroller, who then proceeded to tell him of the existence of a state law that mandates volunteers to pay income tax.
Isaacs referred to the idea as “shocking.” In his interview with WPIX-TV, he made it clear that their organization is not “concerned” about the money they will have to pay, but rather, the paperwork involved, noting that the situation could easily become a nightmare for organizations such as theirs and their employees.
“What we’re even more concerned about than the money, is the bureaucracy, and the paperwork, and I think that once that’s unleashed … once you start filing that, you have to do that for like a whole year or something,” Isaacs said.
According to Lawrence Spielman, a partner at the accounting firm Spielman, Koenigsberg & Parker, LLP, volunteers from out-of-state are required to register in New York, and file for their withholding taxes in the state.
Not every volunteer will be taxed, as out-of-state residents who have come to New York as coronavirus relief volunteers will only be subjected to the tax after 14 days in the state.
Nearly 100,000 volunteers responded to Cuomo’s call when he sent out a message asking for additional healthcare professionals in late March after the state experienced its first major spike in coronavirus cases and deaths.
“I am asking health care professionals across the country if you don’t have a health care crisis in your community. Please come help us in New York now,” Cuomo said in his March press conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which has been transformed into a makeshift hospital. “We need relief. We need relief for nurses who are working 12-hour shifts, one after the other. We need relief for doctors. We need relief for attendants. So if you’re not busy, come help us, please. And we will return the favor. We will return the favor.”