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Volume 10 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 82

Opinions of Counsel index

Farm structures and buildings exemption (agricultural use) (horse boarding) - Real Property Tax Law, § 483:

Improvements used solely for horse boarding purposes do not qualify for the farm structures and buildings exemption.

In 10 Op.Counsel SBRPS No. 41, we analyzed the opening paragraph of section 301(4) of the Agriculture and Markets Law (added L.1994, 556), which provides that “land used in agricultural production” (i.e., the property which qualifies for agricultural assessments) includes “land used . . . to support a commercial horse boarding operation . . . subject to the approval of the county legislative body.” We concluded, “Upon approval of a county legislative body, land used to support a commercial horse boarding operation may be eligible for an agricultural assessment.”

We are now asked whether structures used in conjunction with a horse boarding operation qualify for the exemption for “structures and buildings essential to the operation of lands actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use” (Real Property Tax Law, § 483(1)). In addition to referring to 10 Op.Counsel SBRPS No. 41, the requester notes that section 483(8) (added L.1977, c.267; renumbered L.1992, c.797) specifies that “the activity of raising and breeding horses” is included in the phrase “agricultural and horticultural.” The requester also refers to 9 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 57, in which, while we concluded that an indoor exercise arena exclusively used to train and exercise a farm’s horses qualified for exemption (per § 483(8)), we also indicated that horse-related activities, such as riding academies and dude ranches, do not, although they may possibly be eligible for a business investment exemption (RPTL, § 485-b).

Despite the obvious relationship between section 483 of the RPTL and the Agricultural Districts Law, they are still separate laws, and, in our opinion, improvements constructed to solely support horse boarding activities do not qualify for exemption pursuant to section 483. We reach this conclusion for several reasons.

First, section 483 is a State-mandated exemption. While, in general, the Agricultural Districts Law is also mandatory, the extension for horse boarding is available only at county option. It would be incongruous to conclude that horse boarding satisfies the statewide standard of section 483 on the basis of a county option elected under another law.

Perhaps more importantly, section 483 itself does not define horse boarding as an exempt activity. Indeed, by defining horse “raising and breeding” as an exempt enterprise, a case may be made for the proposition that the Legislature did not intend to include other horse-related activities. {1}

Moreover, the amendment for horse boarding occurred some 17 years after the horse breeding amendment. The Legislature clearly could have expanded section 483(8) of the RPTL when it expanded section 301 Agriculture and Markets Law, § 301(4); it did not. If this was oversight, it can be readily addressed through further amendment. Until and unless such amendment occurs or a court of competent jurisdiction finds otherwise, it remains our opinion that improvements used solely for horse boarding purposes do not qualify for exemption pursuant to section 483 of the RPTL.

May 25, 1999

NOTE: This Opinion superseded by L.2001, c.411, effective October 31, 2001.

{1}  “The maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius is applied in the construction of the statutes, so that where a law expressly describes a particular act, thing or person to which it shall apply, an irrefutable inference must be drawn that what is omitted or not included was intended to be omitted or excluded” (McKinney’s Statutes, § 240).