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Congressman Thomas Suozzi

Representing the 3rd District of New York

Suozzi Sends Letter to IRS Commissioner Questioning Tax Ruling on Suffolk Septic Grants and Will Propose Legislation

February 11, 2020
Press Release
Suozzi, who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, will, if necessary, propose legislation in the House infrastructure package.

Today, Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Long Island, Queens), sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Charles P. Rettig, asking him to reconsider a recent ruling that Suffolk County residents must pay taxes on county grants used to upgrade their septic tanks. The full letter can be found attached and copied below.

 

“For years, Long Island has experienced a decline in water quality in part due to nitrogen runoff. Cesspools and septic systems have been identified as the largest single cause of degraded water quality contributing to beach closures, restrictions on shellfishing, toxic algae blooms, and massive fish kills,” said Suozzi. “I will work on solutions to help protect our environment and groundwater without putting any additional onus on Suffolk County homeowners who are already struggling with the recent cap on their state and local tax deductions (SALT).”

 

As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax-writing committee in Congress, Suozzi will review legislative options to try and support this program, which was initiated in 2017 under Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and is an integral part of efforts to reduce nitrogen pollution in waterways.

 

“This unfortunate decision is an attempt to create new tax liability for local homeowners who voluntarily participate in a critical water quality program, but we aren't going to let that happen. We are prepared to challenge this ruling if necessary and look forward to working with Congressman Suozzi and our Congressional delegation to make sure homeowners are protected,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

 

Under this specific program, Suffolk County residents were eligible for grants between $10,000-$20,000 to defray the costs of upgrading aging cesspools and septic systems to more efficient modern units that produce less nitrogen.

 

On Long Island, nitrogen pollution from septic tanks has been identified as the single largest contributor to deteriorating groundwater quality. This has resulted in a degradation of Long Island’s local environment, drinking water, and the surrounding ecosystem. Incentivizing homeowners to upgrade their septic tanks will help to preserve our environment for years to come and will give residents the drinking water they deserve.

 

Even before he was elected to Congress, Suozzi has fought to improve water quality and clean up Long Island’s environment for future generations. As a Member of Congress, he has increased funding to protect the Long Island Sound by more than 500% in just three years and has secured tens of millions of dollars to finally clean up the Navy-Grumman Plume.

 

Last month, Suozzi and his Democratic colleagues unveiled the framework for a massive investment in infrastructure that would address some of the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs. If necessary, Suozzi will propose legislation that will address this issue within this infrastructure package.

 

The full text of the letter can be found attached and copied below:

 

Dear Commissioner Rettig,

 

According to a private ruling issued by your office in relation to the Suffolk County Septic Improvement Program, homeowners in Suffolk County, NY who chose to participate in the County’s grant program must pay federal income tax on the grants they received. The ruling concluded that 1099 forms should be issued not only to the installing companies that receive disbursements under the program, but to the homeowners who do not. I strongly oppose this decision as it undermines the program’s mission and similarly constructed programs such as the State of Maryland’s Bay Restoration Fund did not require 1099 forms to be issued to homeowners.

 

This program, initiated in 2017 under Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, is an integral part of preserving our local environment and protecting our groundwater. Under the program residents were eligible for grants between $10,000-$20,000 to defray the costs of upgrading aging cesspools and septic systems to more efficient modern units that produce less nitrogen. 

 

For years, Long Island has experienced a decline in water quality in part due to nitrogen runoff. Cesspools and septic systems have been identified as the largest single cause of degraded water quality contributing to beach closures, restrictions on shellfishing, toxic algae blooms, and massive fish kills. A conventional onsite septic system was never designed to remove nitrogen. The average residential septic system discharges approximately 40 pounds of nitrogen per year. For homeowners close to surface waters in Suffolk County, nitrogen can rapidly reach surface waters where it contributes to the degradation of our marshes, bays, and beaches. Even inland, nitrogen from septic systems will eventually reach the groundwater and surface waters. This program is integral to combatting this environmental hazard.

 

I am eager to discuss potential solutions to help protect our environment and groundwater without putting any additional onus on Suffolk County homeowners who are already struggling with the recent cap on their state and local tax deductions (SALT).

 

Sincerely,

 


 

Thomas R. Suozzi

Member of Congress