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New federal tax law can spur a reckoning on Long Island

A line of residents waiting to pay their

A line of residents waiting to pay their taxes snakes out of Huntington Town Hall at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Lawrence Striegel

Plenty of people are willing to stand on line in the bitter cold during the holiday season — but it’s usually for an exciting opportunity, like the chance to skate at Rockefeller Center.

On Long Island, homeowners are waiting . . . to pay their property taxes.

The rush in Washington to put new federal tax policy into place has led to anger, aggravation and confusion from homeowners who saw one of their prized deductions disappear. Many are desperately trying to prepay their 2018 property taxes in the hopes they’ll be able to deduct those payments on their 2017 federal returns.

But while the Internal Revenue Service’s initial guidance suggests some property owners will be able to do that, there’s still little clarity or certainty. Change in the tax law of this scope demanded time to phase in changes, to understand the implications, to determine how they would work in practice. Those New Yorkers who fear a significant jump in future liability had been given no time to prepare.

The frenzy to prepay is just the beginning of the anticipated and unanticipated consequences of the new tax law. But it already has shed important light on the complexities in and confusion about New York’s own layers of governance and taxation.

Amid the probable consequences of the new federal code is a single bright spot: It’s a forced opportunity to examine how, when and what Long Islanders pay, where their tax money goes, and what they get for it. Inevitably we will start to discuss how we fund our schools, whether there’s a need for costly multiple layers of government and the work rules that inflate the cost of municipal labor agreements.

Such a reckoning will take time and political will. For now, however, Long Island homeowners — and others across the country — are left to stand out in the cold. — The editorial board