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Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 121

Opinions of Counsel index

Veterans’ organization exemption (Chief Petty Officers’ Club), Nonprofit organizations exemption (patriotic) (naval officers club) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 421, 452:

Real property belonging to an incorporated Chief Petty Officers Club, whose membership is not limited to war veterans is not exempt pursuant to section 452 of the Real Property Tax Law. Likewise no exemption is available to such organization pursuant to section 421 where it is not exclusively organized for exempt purposes.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the taxable status of real property belonging to an incorporated Chief Petty Officers’ Club.

Section 452 of the Real Property Tax Law provides an exemption from taxation for real property owned by certain specified veterans’ organizations (no Chief Petty Officers’ Club is included in this list) “and any other corporation or association of veterans of the Armed Forces of the United States in any war . . . .” Consequently, in order to receive an exemption pursuant to this section, the Officers’ Club would need to be composed of war veterans. Article 3 of the Club’s by-laws provides that membership is restricted to certain ex-Navy and Coast Guard officers. There is no restriction that such officers must have seen duty during any war in which the United States was engaged. Accordingly, based on the rule of strict construction which must be given to all exemption statutes (see, Herkimer County v. Village of Herkimer, 251 App.Div. 126, 295 N.Y.S. 629, aff’d, 279 N.Y. 560, 18 N.E.2d 854), it is our opinion that the Chief Petty Officers’ Club in question is not exempt pursuant to section 452.

Pursuant to subdivision 1 (b) of section 421 of the Real Property Tax Law, real property belonging to a corporation or association organized exclusively for patriotic or historical purposes is exempt from taxation unless the municipality in which such organization’s property is located has, after a public hearing, adopted a local law, ordinance or resolution providing that such property shall be taxable. However, pursuant to item 2 of the Chief Petty Officers’ Club’s Certificate of Incorporation, the purpose of the organization is “to promote interest in naval activities ashore and afloat and for the mutual welfare and benefit of the members”. In our opinion, this does not reflect the patriotic or historical purpose the statute is intended to benefit. (However, cf. National Navy Club of New York, Inc. v. the City of New York, 122 Misc. 89, 203 N.Y.S. 114.) Thus, no exemption is available pursuant to this section.

May 12, 1975