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Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 94

Opinions of Counsel index

Special franchise assessment (correction of errors) (duplicate assessment) (school tax roll) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 557, 618:

A county treasurer may cancel duplicate assessments which appear on the return of unpaid taxes. As to special franchise property, cancellation of a duplicate assessment is the most equitable and efficient way to correct such error.

We have received an inquiry as to the proper procedure to follow in the correction of an error relating to special franchise assessments appearing on a school district tax roll.

By way of brief review, various special franchise assessments of property owned by two utilities were reduced by the State Board of Equalization and Assessment pursuant to complaints duly filed by the owners in accordance with the provisions of section 610 of the Real Property Tax Law and reviewed by the State Board in accordance with the provisions of sections 612 and 614 of the Real Property Tax Law.

Unfortunately, in the process of correcting the school district assessment roll the county tax department added the correct assessments but failed to remove the incorrect assessments. As a result, school district taxes were extended against two different assessed valuations for each entry of special franchise property in question, and the tax bills based on the incorrect prior assessments are now delinquent.

If the taxes in dispute remain unpaid, then they must be returned to the county as delinquent accounts. Upon being returned as delinquent, the taxes come under the jurisdiction of the county, and pursuant to section 946 of the Real Property Tax Law, the county treasurer may cancel duplicate assessments which appear on the return of unpaid taxes. In the case of such cancellation, the county treasurer is directed to charge back and apportion the amount of the cancelled tax upon the real property of the several cities and towns of the county as shall be just (i.e., upon the real property located within the assessing units of the school district).

The question may arise as to whether the assessments in question are actually duplicate assessments within the meaning of section 946. In each case it is the entry of the parcel rather than the valuation which is the duplication, and it may be argued that such error represents a judgment as to the valuation which is subject to review prior to this point in time. However, while this argument may be made in relation to real property not subject to special assessment, we are of the opinion that section 946 must apply in the situation in question because of the unique nature of special franchise property and the assessment thereof. Specifically, subsequent to the receipt of notice of final special franchise assessment pursuant to section 618 of the Real Property Tax Law, the owner of special franchise property has no further need to inspect the final assessment roll in that the assessor is required to enter the valuation appearing on the certificate on such final assessment roll. Any question as to the claim of duplication can be substantiated by the records maintained at the State Board of Equalization and Assessment.

October 24, 1973

NOTE: L.1974, c.177, effective September 1, 1974, enacted a new Real Property Tax Law, § 557(1) containing same matter as former section 946 repealed by such act.