“That is an alarming number,” said Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, which represents 1,600 outlets around the state.
He said that while there’s no excuse for tax evasion, “it’s a reflection of the desperation of some store owners” trying to make ends meet in a jurisdiction with the highest cigarette tax in the nation.
The number of smokers in the city is falling each year — with Mayor Bloomberg crediting his administration’s anti-smoking policies for the drop.
But tax revenues from cigarettes are plummeting even more quickly.
The city took in $158.5 million from its share of the cigarette tax in 2003. Last year, collections were down to $69.8 million, a 56 percent drop.
During that same period, the smoking rate fell 28 percent.
Finance Commissioner David Frankel said his agency’s pursuit of cigarette tax cheats is as much about fairness as revenues.