• United States

Election season plays, Part 2

Aug 24, 20043 mins

* Senator backs bill to end telework double tax

Here’s an update to a story we ran in early June about efforts brewing to stop the State of New York from double taxing the income of non-resident teleworkers (see editorial link below).

At the time, draft legislation had just been introduced in Washington that mandates states can only tax workers who are physically present and working in their states.  No one claimed authorship to the bill, and it had no sponsor. But the players involved – telework attorney Nicole Belson Goluboff; Edward Zelinsky, the Cardozo Law School professor who lost his double taxation fight in court; and other telework advocates – were confident the bill would soon get a sponsor, specifically Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

But when will Dodd announce his support, I asked everyone. The composite answer went something like: “Oh, we can’t say. But we know the Senator wants to get the timing just right. Oh, and don’t mention his name in print. When Dodd’s ready, he wants to make a big splash.” 

The right time turned out to be the Monday, Aug. 2, right after the close of the Democratic National Convention. The splash occurred on the platform of the Fairfield, Conn., commuter rail station. There, Dodd announced that he and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) would introduce the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act in September when Congress reconvenes, and that Rep. Christopher Shay (R-Conn.) would introduce similar legislation in the House.

Flanking Dodd on the platform were Zelinsky, Goluboff and a bunch of angry Connecticut telecommuters, including an IBM employee we interviewed earlier – the guy who wondered whether New York’s practice would spur teleworkers to pay income tax to their home states. 

Dodd’s announcement surprised the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, too. “We didn’t know this was coming, we haven’t seen the bill and obviously can’t comment on it until our office has a chance to review it,” a spokesperson says.  

When I offered to send him a copy of the bill – it has been floating around since June, after all – he said: “Sure, we’d like to see it. But I think we’d prefer to wait until the bill’s introduced in its official form to comment.”

Of course, telework advocates are happy. “This bill is necessary to both eliminate the double taxation that is currently imposed by several states and to prevent other states from enacting similar legislation,” says Chuck Wilsker, president of the Telework Coalition. “It will provide an added incentive to those teleworking or considering telework.”

And the IBM employee is optimistic, but shares my concern over the timing.  

“It’s a good step forward,” he says. “But the real test will come if the bill gets any traction during the Congressional session – or if turns out to be an election season stunt.”