To Fight Blight, Cut Business Taxes?

In the United States, only New York City and Florida tax businesses on the rent they pay to their landlords.

Now, business leaders in New York are pushing for a rollback in the Commercial Rent Tax as a way to fight the growing number of vacant storefronts in popular neighborhoods like Soho.

The leaders of all five New York City borough chambers of commerce recently wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking him to support a billthat would cut the number of firms that must pay the tax.

At present, businesses in Manhattan south of 96th Street paying more than $250,000 a year in rent must also pay taxes on that rent. The City Council bill would raise that threshold to $500,000, cutting taxes for 3,540 companies, according to an analysis by the Independent Budget Office. The city would miss out on more than $50 million in tax revenue.

The cutoff for the CRT has not been adjusted since 2001.

Jessica Walker, CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, said she has not received a response to the letter from de Blasio.

But Freddi Goldstein, a spokesperson for the mayor, said in an emailed statement that de Blasio supports the goal of helping small businesses, but opposes the tax cut: “We are committed to helping small business owners succeed. Since the mayor took office, we have reduced fines against small businesses by 40 percent and connected small businesses with $187 million in capital. At this time, especially given the uncertainty about the federal budget, health care and tax reform, we don't feel it's the right time to take major action on the commercial rent tax.”

The bill has 41 sponsors, enough to override a mayoral veto.