Fact check: Coronavirus volunteer health workers will be expected to pay N.Y. state taxes

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference to discuss the first positive case of novel coronavirus or COVID-19 in New York State.

Claim: Temporary workers who travel to New York to fight the coronavirus will have to pay state taxes

State officials are scrambling to balance the need to revive their economies, protect public health and listen to the concerns of their residents while the new coronavirus continues to sweep through the country.

National attention has focused on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is leading a state that is considered to be the United States’ epicenter of the pandemic. 

As of May 21, the New York Times reported more than 359,000 confirmed and probable cases and more than 28,500 confirmed and probable deaths in New York.

An Instagram page titled “republicanparty,” which seems to hold no official affiliation with the GOP, posted in May a screenshot of a tweet in which a user expressed outrage at New York's requirement that temporary workers who come to the state to help with the coronavirus emergency pay New York state income taxes.

The screenshot reads: “INSANITY: Cuomo confirms health care professionals who came to New York to help fight the coronavirus pandemic will be forced to pay [New York] state income tax, citing the state’s $13 billion budget deficit and a need for tax revenue.” 

The tax news was also reported widely by local news stations, online publications such as The Blaze and Forbes.

The situation for temporary workers in New York

Word that the roughly 21,000 temporary workers in New York will have to pay state income taxes in New York arose May 5 during Cuomo’s news conference.

After the governor’s updates on the death toll, confirmed case count and plan of action, Cuomo was asked whether he had considered waiving the state’s tax on temporary workers.

Cuomo responded: “We’re not in a position to provide any more subsidies right now because we have a $13 billion deficit. 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.’ If we don’t get more money from Washington, we can’t fund schools at the rate we want to fund them. We are in dire financial need.”

Cuomo said New York is a “donor state” and pays more in federal taxes than it receives in return. Without financial help from the federal government, he said he cannot justify exempting temporary workers from state income taxes.

Documents on the New York Department of Taxation and Finance website show the state requires nonresidents who work more than 14 days in the state to pay income tax when “the sum of your federal adjusted gross income and New York additions to income is more than your New York standard deduction.”

Who qualifies as a nonresident is determined on the number of days spent in New York during a given tax period, which varies based on family size and type of travel.

This issue is not new. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to simplify state income tax requirements, the most recent attempt being H.R. 5674, a bill introduced in January by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., that would limit states’ abilities to tax income made in other states.

The bill would also alleviate workers from having to pay state income taxes unless they work more than 30 days in the state. “Professional athletes, professional entertainers and certain prominent public figures” are not included in this legislation.

Our ruling: True

Documents from the New York Department of Taxation and Finance confirm what the Instagram post claimed: Workers who don’t live in New York and temporarily come to the state to help fight the coronavirus are required to pay state income taxes, as Cuomo said in his recent news conference.

Our fact-check sources

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