If you return from abroad through JFK you may get a tax bill from New York State on the items you brought in. That's because the state is now enforcing a little-known Use Tax on items purchased out of state. Moreover, you are responsible for filling out the necessary form, which is not handed out on incoming flights as is the Customs declaration, but is available at Customs counters at all New York State international airports. Failure to fill out the form can result in penalty fees and interest charges being applied on top of the tax owed.
The applicable tax rate is based on your county of residence. If you live in Manhattan the rate is 8.25 percent on items brought in from abroad (even if you've paid VAT and are not getting a refund), in addition to any duty owed.
For items purchased in other states, account is taken of sales taxes paid. (And Big Brother is watching: Other states share records of high-end purchases with New York.) Thus, if you buy a $5,000 sofa in New Jersey, where the tax is six percent, you owe 2.25 percent to New York State.
What's the rationale? According to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, "The law has been on the books since 1965, but new technology lets us track information more efficiently." Meaning: Before we couldn't find you, now we can. Further information: New York State Department of Taxation and Finance at 800-225-5829.