ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo paid slightly less in federal taxes in 2018, the first year the Republican tax reform plan he often rails against went into effect.

Cuomo, a Democrat, paid $39,138 in federal income taxes last year on an adjusted gross income of $211,289, an effective tax rate of 18.5%, according to his 2018 returns made available to reporters Monday.

That was less than the 19.6% federal tax rate he paid in 2017, when he was taxed $41,765 on $212,776 in income.

Cuomo has been highly critical of the 2017 GOP tax plan because it implemented a $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, or SALT, which prevents tax filers from writing off an unlimited amount as they had in the past.

The Democratic governor has said the cap amounts to double taxation, particularly on wealthier New York residents who will now pay more to the federal government and could flee to lower-tax states.

Cuomo himself exceeded the $10,000 cap, paying about $12,800 in state income taxes in 2018.

But the governor was no longer affected by the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, which had prevented him from deducting any state or local taxes in previous years.

Cuomo releases 2018 returns

E.J. McMahon, founder of the fiscally conservative Empire Center think tank, said Cuomo has conflated the impact on the rich New Yorkers with how the federal tax reforms affected middle-class New Yorkers.

For the most part, New Yorkers saw a decrease in taxes because of the federal changes, he said.

“His own case illustrates that there are offsetting features to the new tax law, and there is by no means a uniform impact,” McMahon said. “For the majority of people, it was a net savings.”

Cuomo’s 2018 income was largely from his $172,667 taxable salary as governor, along with about $40,000 in dividends from a blind trust that manages his investments.

He donated $11,000 to a single charity: HELP USA, a housing organization he founded in the 1990s.

He was owed a $3,306 federal refund, which he applied to his 2019 taxes.

Cuomo’s state tax rate was 5.8%, according to his 2018 returns. His state refund was $562, which he is also applying to next year’s taxes.

Cuomo’s salary grew this year to $200,000 under a resolution approved by the Legislature last month, which was recommended by a state commission that granted lawmakers a similar raise. It was he and lawmakers’ first pay increase since 1999.

The governor’s salary will grow to $250,000 by 2021.

Tax returns a show of transparency

He did not claim any property taxes on his returns, since he lives in a Westchester County home owned by his longtime partner Sandra Lee, the celebrity food and homestyle star.

That helped keep his state and local tax bill down, though Cuomo’s office has long maintained he splits household expenses with Lee.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and her husband, William, paid a higher federal tax rate in 2018 than they did in 2017, their joint return showed.

The pair paid $245,622 in federal taxes last year on $876,252 in income, a 28 percent effective rate. Last year, they paid a 26.2% rate — $153,124 federal taxes paid on $585,357 in income.

William Hochul is general counsel for Delaware North.

The governor and New York’s statewide elected officials make their tax returns public each year to reporters, who are free to copy the information and report on it.

Last week, Cuomo called on all New York officeholders to release their tax returns, arguing it would be a symbol of transparency that stands in contrast to the White House, where President Donald Trump has declined to release his.

“If you want Donald Trump’s tax returns, why don’t you release your own?” Cuomo said on WAMC-FM.

© Press & Sun-Bulletin

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