New York City Comptroller John Liu’s office has filed a lawsuit asking the New York State Supreme Court to enforce the comptroller’s rights under the city charter to access city Department of Finance tax records necessary to audit finance’s collection of the general corporation tax.

According to a statement from Liu on Wednesday, the purpose of this audit is to determine the security and reliability, including the accuracy and completeness, of the assessment and collection of the tax by the finance department.

GCT is a tax on domestic and foreign corporations that conduct business activities, use capital, own or lease property, or maintain an office in the city. In addition, the tax makes available many exemptions, deductions and credits. Liu’s office estimated that the tax for this year could be as high as $3 billion.

“It is our duty as the city’s fiscal watchdog to monitor this enormous tax collection enterprise and verify that it is fair to all and that the interests of all City taxpayers are being protected,” Liu said. “Finance is asking us to take its word that the collection of these funds is being properly handled. We don’t do that for any other agency and we will not do it for the Department of Finance.

“For decades, Finance has been hiding behind an inaccurate interpretation of law to deny the city comptroller’s office the information it needs to ensure that corporations doing business within the five boroughs of New York City are paying their fair share.”

Liu’s office asked the court for an order granting it access to records from Finance’s Fairtax computer system, which contains business-tax return information and other vital data relating to how Finance processed the GCT returns. 

Department of Finance press secretary Owen Stone said in response: “The Department of Finance is barred by statute from disclosing general corporation tax return information except under very limited circumstances not present in this case.

“Criminal penalties are imposed for the unlawful disclosure of tax return information. This is for the protection of taxpayers and to encourage voluntary compliance with tax laws. In addition to potential criminal penalties, persons who release return information may forfeit their employment.”

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