We know that NYC real estate is an anomaly, but nothing makes that as clear as the Mansion Tax (a.k.a. New York State Tax 1402-a).
It’s an additional tax that requires anyone buying a residential property--single-family, condo or co-op--that’s over $1 million to pay 1 percent of the sale price.
Just as painful as the tax itself is the fact that the $1 million does not actually buy you a mansion in NYC--more like a cookie-cutter two-bedroom apartment that your relatives in the 'burbs regard with pity.
Over on StreetEasy, one buyer recently took to the forums for advice on how to avoid paying a mansion tax on a just-over-$1 million property.
”We are bidding on a unit that will likely close just over $1 million, and wondering what we might offer in negotiations to the seller to keep the price below that mark. I did read from other posts about paying the seller's broker commission...anything anyone else has tried?,” the buyer asks.
One commenter suggests offering to pay the NY State and City Transfer tax in addition to the seller’s half of the broker’s commission in exchange for a lower recorded sales price.
In general, though, most commenters advise against any such schemes.
“There's really no way around it,” one opines. “If the buyer pays the taxes the seller usually pays, they're treated as consideration to the seller and included in the taxable amount. The buyer and seller aren't the ones completing the closing statement the city uses to calculate tax. You can't ask whoever does do it to set themselves up for penalties just to save you 1%.”
BrickUnderground checked in with Manhattan closing lawyer Sandor Krauss, who stresses that buyers who try to manipulate the recorded sales price (by paying the seller’s broker fee, or paying for “personal property,” such as furniture, as some StreetEasy users suggest) should have an appetite for risk--and prepare for the possibility of consequences.
“Anytime a buyer tries to avoid any tax, albeit a mansion tax, the buyer should always consider that they may be audited and they may be subject to fines or penalties associated with their failure to pay the proper tax,” he says.
Krauss adds that even an under-$1 million apartment can be subject to the tax: “If it is a new development purchase and the purchaser pays transfer taxes, the transfer taxes and potentially the sponsor’s legal fees will be bulked up and added to the consideration"--i.e., the government will add all related costs to the sales price to determine whether the total cost of the transaction surpasses the million mark.
One StreetEasy user may have hit the nail on the head when he said the only reliable way to avoid the Mansion Tax is to “1. Rent 2. Buy something under a million dollars 3. don’t pay and spend a year or two in jail.”