Los Angeles Times

Schumer: Go after deadbeat diplomats

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- New York Sen. Charles Schumer wantsthe U.S.government to fight fire with fire -- or, in the case of tax scofflaws, fight diplomats with diplomats.

Following a federal judge's decision that the governments of India, Mongolia and the Philippines must pay $57.6 million in property taxes to New York City,Schumer on Thursday urged the Department of State to deduct that amount from the money the U.S.sends those countries in aid.

Diplomatic missions in New York have long squabbled with local authorities over taxes and unpaid parking tickets. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year thatthe city had a right to collect taxes on portions of buildings used by other countries for non-diplomatic purposes.

A New York federal judge on Monday ordered the three countries to pony up what they owe.

Schumer, a Democrat, inserted language into recent spending bills requiring the Department of State to withhold a similar amount of aid to countries that don'tpay their local U.S. taxes.

The judge's ruling, he said, means it's time for the Department of State to act.

"When these deadbeat diplomats refuse to pay millions in taxes, we continue to send them aid," Schumer complained. "It doesn't make sense." A Department ofState spokeswoman did not immediately comment Thursday.

International treaties have defined consulates and embassies as sovereign territories, which makes them generally tax exempt. But Monday's court decisionfound international conventions clearly state only the home of the head of a mission is exempted from taxes.

India was ordered to pay $42.4 million in taxes related to a 26-story tower in Manhattan near the United Nations with 20 floors of apartments occupied bydiplomatic employees. Mongolia must pay $4.3 million for a six-story building with two floors of staff residences. The tax bill for the Philippines is $10.9 million fora building on a prime stretch of Fifth Avenue that includes commercial tenants.

A lawyer for the three countries' missions, Robert Kandel, declined to comment.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times