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New York Amish Contend with Local Tax Authority

August 26th

The Amish population of New York are butting heads with the local tax authorities over new tax filing regulations that conflict with their beliefs.

Earlier this year the New York Department of Taxation and Finance updated its compliance regulations, making it mandatory for all taxpayers to file their state tax returns electronically. The new rules are at clear odds with the beliefs of the local Amish population, who do not believe in the use of electricity or any other modern technology.

The Amish community frequently have to file tax returns. It is not uncommon for the Amish to provide services to the general public or sell products that draw a tax liability and thus require the filing of annual tax returns. However, in this instance, members of the Amish community have spoken out. They state that while they do not object to paying their tax liability, the community takes offense to being forced to use electronic services that violate their beliefs.

An Underrepresented Population?

According to several affected Amish taxpayers, they have already sent handwritten letters requesting exemption from the filing requirements. Unfortunately, there has been trouble processing their requests.

The New York Department of Taxation and Finance refused to process the exemptions without being able to speak with the taxpayers over the telephone to confirm their requests. This has obviously caused difficulties. To this point, several members of nearby non-Amish communities have acted as intermediaries in the discussions.

However, there remains concern that such cultural differences may leave the Amish community underrepresented to the tax authorities. At present it is estimated that approximately 12,000 Amish live in New York state. Many of these individuals have been unable to have their voices heard in this debate.

In fact, several Amish taxpayers who have been unable to negotiate permission to file their tax returns due to such difficulties have received warnings from the tax authorities. They have received letters stating that failure to comply with the current system will result in financial penalties.


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