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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 43

Opinions of Counsel index

Veterans’ exemption (purchase) (repurchase after tax sale) - Real Property Tax Law, § 458:

Where a veteran, who had been receiving a veteran’s exemption (Real Property Tax Law, § 458), loses title to his property pursuant to tax sale, and later repurchases such property, he is not entitled to again receive an exemption unless eligible funds were used in such repurchase.

We have received an inquiry concerning the veterans’ exemption from real property taxation (Real Property Tax Law, § 458). It appears from the facts submitted that the applicant had received a veterans’ exemption on his property since 1968, the assessment roll that year reflecting a $5,000 exemption. He continued to receive an exemption on the assessment rolls prepared in the years 1969 through 1972. It also appears that during much of this period, he failed to pay the real property taxes levied on his property. The tax liens against his property were enforced pursuant to law, and finally, a deed indicating ownership by the county was filed in 1972. The 1973 assessment roll then listed the parcel in question in the name of the county.

Subdivision 1 of section 458 of the Real Property Tax Law provides that property owned by a veteran or certain other persons designated in the statute may be entitled to an exemption to the extent (not to exceed $5,000) that certain designated moneys (“eligible funds”) were used in the purchase of the property. Thus, a veteran has no inherent right to an exemption based solely on his status as a veteran, but rather the exemption is a result of the application of eligible funds toward the purchase of real property.

It has long been held that a veteran may recover his eligible funds from the sale of his exempt real property and transfer his exemption by investing the proceeds of such sale in the purchase of a new parcel (14 St.Dept. 495; 1 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 25). In the situation presented, however, the veteran cannot be said to have recovered his eligible funds at the time he lost title to the property. That is, prior to the running of the period of redemption, despite the existence of tax liens, the veteran remained the owner of his property, and was therefore entitled to an exemption. However, once title passed to the county, the property was no longer owned by an individual in the class of persons eligible to receive the veterans’ exemption. As no moneys were received by the veteran from the county when it took title, no eligible funds were recovered.

The veteran’s repurchase of the parcel in question in September, 1975 constituted a new purchase within the meaning of section 458, and unless he used additional eligible funds available to him in such repurchase, it is our opinion that he is not entitled to a veterans’ exemption.

November 24, 1975