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Cuomo launches tax-free zones near college campuses to attract start-ups

By Eric Reinhardt


Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 22 unveiled Tax-Free NY, an initiative intended to “transform” university campuses statewide into tax-free zones that attract start-ups, venture capital, new business, and investments from around the world.

Tax-Free NY offers new businesses the chance to operate completely tax free, including no income tax for employees and no sales, property, or business taxes, while partnering with the higher-education institutions in the State University of New York (SUNY), Cuomo’s office said in a news release.

Tax-Free NY targets all SUNY campuses outside New York City and designated private colleges north of Westchester County will also be tax-free. The release did not elaborate on the involvement of the private colleges in this initiative. The zone will include up to 200,000 square feet surrounding a given campus.

The initiative also stipulates that employees of businesses that open in Tax-Free NY zones are exempt from paying income taxes.

Under Tax-Free NY, New York’s private universities will have three million square feet of commercial space available, and New York will also designate 20 “strategic state assets” as tax free as well, according to the governor’s office.

Businesses that are eligible to pursue inclusion in a Tax-Free NY zone include companies with a relationship to the academic mission of a given university.

In addition, businesses creating new jobs are also eligible, including new firms, out-of-state businesses that relocate to New York, and existing companies that expand their New York operations while maintaining their existing jobs.

Over the past two years, New York has cut middle-class tax rates to their lowest rates in 60 years, cut taxes for small businesses, and invested “like never before” in our institutions of higher education, Cuomo said in the news release.

“Under Tax-Free NY, communities across Upstate will become a magnet for new businesses, new startups, new venture capital, and new jobs, taking our economic development and job creating efforts to a level never seen before,” Cuomo added.

Tax-Free NY seeks to “replicate” the economic success of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in the Capital Region, according to the governor’s office.

By partnering with the University at Albany and the state, CNSE grew to become a research college for nanoscale technology, attracting billions of dollars in private-sector investment, the office said.



This “innovative,” public-private partnership will improve New York’s business-tax climate, Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, said in a news release.

“We’re hopeful that Governor Cuomo’s plan will yield similar results in other Upstate communities,” Sampson said, referencing the job growth CNSE has spurred in the Albany area.

At the same time, state leaders must also approve additional tax relief and regulatory changes for all businesses across the state, Sampson adds.

Unshackle Upstate is a coalition of more than 80 business, trade, and economic-development groups representing more than 70,000 employers. Most are based in upstate New York.


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