WASHINGTON -- Buried in the pending tax simplification bill is a provision that could cause budget and bond financing problems in 1992 for nearly two-thirds of the states and many localities, municipal officials and lobbyists, municipal officials and lobbyists say.
For New York City alone, the provision -- which would change a deadline for making estimated tax payments on indivuduals' federal income tax returns -- might imbalance the city's budget by more than $100 million and activate a state overseer, said Carol O'Cleireacain, the city's commissioner of finance.
Under current law, individuals who make estimated tax payments must do so four times a year, including making the second payment on June 15. The tax simplification bill introduced in June by Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-TEx., proposes moving the deadline for that second payment to July 15, to give taxpayers more time to properly calculate the amount they need to pay. If the bill is enacted this year, the change would be made in 1992.
But that change would create financial problems next year for jurisdictions that operate on a July-June fiscal year and tailor their tax systems to that of the federal government, state and local officials say.
For those states and localities, changing that date would push the second 1992 estimated tax payment into the 1993 fiscal year and cause them to lose reveues they had counted on in 1992. For some of those governments, shifting the tax payment date could disrupt schedules for issuing short-term notes backed by income tax revenues, lobbyists say.
According to the Federation of Tax Administrators, 41 states have a broad-based income tax, and 36 of those begin their fiscal years in July. The federation did not have similar figures for governments below the state level, but a spokesman for the National Association of Counties said most counties probably follow the lead of their state governments in setting their fiscal years.
The tax federation is concerned about the provision because it "will jeopardize the ability of states to meet the balanced budget requirements of state constitutions and law or will reduce any ending state balance," said R. Gary Clark, the federation's president, in a recent letter to Mr. Rostenkowski.
"The provision would immediately cause many of those budgets to become unbalanced. Quite simply, even though it has only a one-time effect, state budgets are not in a condition to absorb such a shift," said Mr. Clark, who is also tax administrator for Rhode Island.
New York City would lose $107.3 million of revenues this fiscal year under the proposal, Ms. O'Cleireacain estimated in letters to the two congressmen.
"This would immediately imbalance the FY92 budget just recently adopted by the city after a very difficult and painful process," she said. "If the city were unable through other actions to bring the budget back into balance, its fiscal independence could be jeopardized as a result of the activation of the regulatory powers of the New York State Financial Control Board."
Ms. O'Cleireacain and Mr. Clark said states and localities could avoid the problem simply by not going along with the change and leaving their second estimated tax payment date at June 15. But that would present its own problems, they said, and they urged the tax lawmakers to kill the proposal.
"With two due dates (and the state being the earlier one), the number of delinquencies at the state level is likely to increase significantly," Mr. Clark wrote. He also noted that if states and cities do not change their date, they will negate the effect of the change at the federal level, since taxpayers would still have to calculate estimated tax payments by June 15.
Differing dates "can only create uncertainty and confusion for taxpayers and expose many to the risk of penalties for failkure to comply with one jurisdiction's requirements," Ms. O'Cleireacain said.
Tax committee staff members could not be reached for comment on whether lawmakers would be willing to drop the proposal or change it.