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NY Man Fights Suspension of License Over Taxes

MANHATTAN (CN) — A 60-year-old man with an ill mother claims in court that New York's policy of suspending driver's licenses for people facing tax liens is unconstitutional.

Arthur Berry says the state's application of the law has caused him great personal hardship.

Berry, a Manhattan resident, sued the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance on Friday in New York County Supreme Court. Commissioner Jerry Boone is also named as a defendant.

He challenges the state's application of Section 171-v of New York Tax Law, which permits the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend the driver's license of individuals who have an outstanding tax liability of more than $10,000.

Berry, who claims he suffers from an unspecified chronic medical condition and is on Medicaid and food stamps, says he received a notice from the state in August that his license would be suspended due to a lien of nearly $19,000 that was filed against him over unpaid income taxes.

But "his basic living expenses exceed his income such that he has no ability to pay his outstanding tax liabilities," a point the state doesn't consider when suspending licenses, according to his 12-page lawsuit.

Berry also says that New York does not allow taxpayers like him to challenge the proposed suspension based upon his inability to pay the outstanding taxes, the fact that his income is exempt from collection, or that he cannot sufficiently manage his affairs with a restricted license.

He claims this directly contradicts Internal Revenue Code section 6330, which "requires the IRS to provide delinquent taxpayers adequate notice and a hearing before levying property in certain circumstances," according to his complaint.

The complaint notes that the law does allow a taxpayer with a suspended license to apply for a restricted license, but Berry says that won't help because he does not own a car and rental companies will not rent a car to a driver with a restricted license.

Berry says that the license suspension has not only hurt him, but also his family. He claims the suspension has prevented him from driving to Georgia to care for his 86-year old mother, whom he claims is in poor health.

Friday's lawsuit says that the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and Boone "do not afford adequate pre-deprivation notice and hearing at which taxpayers can prove that the deprivation is improper. As such, their notice and hearing procedures violate rights guaranteed to all citizens by the United States and New York State Constitutions."

Specifically, Berry says that the suspension of his license by state officials violates his right to due process under both constitutions.

He seeks an order cancelling the suspension of his license and stopping the state from suspending other driver's licenses without allowing taxpayers to challenge the proposed suspension.

Berry is represented by Elizabeth Maresca with Lincoln Square Legal Services, a nonprofit affiliated with Fordham Law School in New York City.

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said it cannot comment on pending litigation.

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