State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said state agencies have failed to...

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said state agencies have failed to disburse millions in donations checked off on tax returns.  Credit: Howard Simmons

ALBANY – New Yorkers have donated nearly $14 million through checkoffs on state tax returns to causes — such as breast cancer research and veteran homelessness — that has gone unspent, according to a report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

DiNapoli’s report released Friday found that over the last five full fiscal years, less than half of the 27 checkoff funds showed disbursements to the purposes for which New Yorkers sought to contribute. The result is $13.7 million in donations by taxpayers were never disbursed to the state agencies that could spend it on the causes checked off on tax returns as of the 2022-23 fiscal year.

"Donors expect their funds to serve the causes they support," DiNapoli said. "Agencies need to comply with reporting requirements to provide greater clarity on why spending from the funds is lagging.”

DiNapoli’s report found that at least $1 million went unspent in each of the following checkoff causes: Veterans remembrance and veteran cemetery maintenance; volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention; help for homeless veterans; breast cancer and prostate cancer research, and outreach for organ and tissue donations and research.

In the case of the checkoff for the Veterans Home Assistance Fund, no money was disbursed last year to the five veterans homes, including the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook. The balance for the checkoff fund was $363,714 as of the 2022-23 fiscal year, according to the report.

There was no immediate comment from the state Taxation and Finance Department.

The largest accumulated fund balance is for prostate cancer research, detection and education, with $3.17 million unspent. Another $2.56 million went unspent from the checkoff for breast cancer research. Other causes include a fund to assist missing and exploited children efforts, military family relief, libraries, gifts for food banks, firearm violence research, and the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center.

DiNapoli said that under state law the funds must be disbursed to the state agencies that act on the concerns. The law also requires annual reports to the State Legislature and comptroller’s office, but those reports have been “sparse,” according to DiNapoli.

DiNapoli wants the reports to be prompt and to explain how the money is spent and why some funds are delayed or not disbursed.

The checkoff funds are created by the legislature. DiNapoli said that in the 2023 legislative session nine new causes were proposed and two were enacted — one for diabetes research and another for childhood cancer research. Despite the growing number of causes that can be chosen, now at 27, there has been little increase in total donations, DiNapoli said.

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