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Volume 10 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 84

Opinions of Counsel index

Correction of errors (omission) (procedure); Assessment roll (tentative) (final) (correction of errors procedure-omissions) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 550, 551, 552, 553:

Omitted assessments may be corrected on assessment rolls as provided in sections 551 and 553 (and for one type of omission, section 552) of the Real Property Tax Law, but may not be corrected on tax rolls. Accordingly, the duration during which omissions may be corrected is strictly limited. [5 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 77 modified in part]

Our opinion has been requested as to the proper “correction of errors” procedure (Real Property Tax Law, Art. 5, title 3) for the taxation of omitted property. As is discussed hereafter in greater detail, omitted property may be entered on the “current” assessment roll before its tentative completion (per RPTL, § 551(1)) or omissions from the assessment roll of the “preceding” or “current” year may be entered onto the final assessment roll (per RPTL, § 553). Clarification is sought of the distinction between the “current” and “preceding” assessment roll as those modifiers are used in these sections. The requester suggests that the 1998 assessment roll is the “current” roll until the 1999 final roll is filed. We disagree.

The only “omissions” which may be corrected are those which satisfy the statutory definition. Section 550(4-a) of the RPTL defines an “omission” as:

(1) a parcel wholly omitted from the assessment or tax roll,

(2) a taxable parcel entered on the roll as wholly exempt,

(3) the omission of the value of an improvement present on the property prior to taxable status day, or

(4) taxable real property for which no school district or special district tax was levied because of a failure to include the property within the appropriate taxing district.

Once it is determined that one of these types of omissions has occurred, in general, the assessor may seek to correct it by including the property on the assessment roll before the tentative roll is filed (RPTL, § 551(1)) or by petitioning the board of assessment review to add the property to the final assessment roll (RPTL, § 553(1)(c), (d)).

We previously discussed this procedure in 5 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 77. That opinion, however, was written before chapter 317 of the Laws of 1986 made a series of technical amendments to better incorporate “errors in essential fact” into the correction of errors provisions. Because the omission of the value of an improvement present on the property prior to taxable status date (i.e., the third type of correctable omission listed above) is an “error in essential fact” (RPTL, § 550(3)(d)), that one type of omission also may be corrected on grievance day if the assessor and board of assessment review use the procedures of section 552 of the RPTL. To the extent that 5 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 77 indicates otherwise, it should be considered modified.

Any uncertainty concerning the references to the current and preceding rolls is seemingly resolved in the statutory definitions which apply to the correction of errors procedure. “‘Assessment roll’ means the assessment roll as it exists from the time of its tentative completion to the time of the annexation of a warrant for the collection of taxes” (RPTL, § 550(1)). “Tax roll” is defined as “a final assessment roll upon which taxes have been extended and to which a warrant [to collect taxes] has been annexed” (RPTL, § 550(6)).

Pursuant to section 551(1), the assessor “upon his own motion or upon the application of any taxpayer therein, shall enter on the assessment roll of the current year, prior to the tentative completion thereof, any parcel of real property shown to have been omitted from the assessment roll of the preceding year. . . .” This language plainly means that, for example, up until the time the assessor files the 2000 tentative assessment roll, he or she may add thereto property omitted from the 1999 assessment roll.

If an omission is not discovered until after the tentative assessment roll is filed, or if the assessor fails to act under section 551 for any reason, there is still another opportunity for correction. Section 553 permits the assessor to petition the board of assessment review to correct the final assessment roll for an omission from the “assessment roll for the preceding year” (§ 553(1)(c)) as well as an omission from the assessment roll for the current year” (§ 553(1)(d)). {1}  Following the above example then, on the 2000 final assessment roll, the assessor may only seek to correct omissions from the 1999 (i.e., the preceding year’s) roll or the 2000 (i.e., the current year’s) roll.

In conclusion, omissions may only be corrected on assessment (not tax) rolls, so there is but a limited period of time in which such a correction may be made. In the preceding example (assuming the usual school and town/county fiscal calendars set forth in the RPTL), if the assessor does not discover or does not act to correct an omission from the 1999 assessment roll (i.e., on which the 1999-2000 school taxes were levied) until October 15, 2000, that is, after the 2000-01 school taxes are levied, the 1999-2000 school taxes can never be levied against the parcel. As the 2001 town and county taxes will not yet have been levied, the section 553 procedure may still be used so as to correct for the parcel’s omission from the 1999 roll. Once the 2001 town/county taxes are levied, however, the omission from the assessment 1999 roll is no longer correctable for 1999 town/county tax purposes. {2}

June 22, 1999

{1}  Section 553 corrections are made at the so-called second meeting of the board of assessment review which is conducted for correction of errors purposes. This meeting is to be held at least 15 days after the filing of the final assessment roll and not more than 90 days but not later than 20 days before the tax levy. Since a town assessment roll may be used for three levies (i.e., for school, town/county and non-assessing unit village (RPTL, § 1402(3)) purposes), there can be three “second” meetings of the board of assessment review.

{2}  Assuming that a non-assessing unit village has a fiscal year beginning on June 1 (Village Law, § 5-500(4)), as most do, the 1999 town assessment roll will be used for the village’s 2000-01 tax levy. This means that omissions from the 1999 town assessment roll may be corrected for village tax purposes until it is too late to hold a “second” meeting to correct an omission from that roll (i.e., less than 20 days prior the 2001-02 village tax levy).