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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 57

Opinions of Counsel index

Correction of errors (error in essential fact) (refund) (acreage) - Real Property Tax Law, § 556-a:

Where an assessor has used incorrect acreage as a factor in assessing a parcel, and the property owner can show, by means of a survey, that such acreage is incorrect, a refund of taxes is authorized pursuant to section 556-a of the Real Property Tax Law. Only the previous year’s taxes may be refunded pursuant to this section.

We have received an inquiry from a taxpayer who states that, although he actually owns less than one acre of land, he has been billed for one and one-half acres by the assessor. He also states that he has contacted the assessor in an attempt to correct the situation, but has been told he will have to wait until the following tax year.

Section 550, subdivision (3), paragraph (c) of the Real Property Tax Law defines “an error in essential fact” as “an incorrect entry of acreage on the taxable portion of the assessment roll, or the tax roll, or both, which acreage was considered by the assessor in the valuation of the parcel and which resulted in an incorrect assessed valuation, where such acreage is shown to be incorrect on a survey submitted by the applicant. . . .” Pursuant to subdivision 4(a) of section 556-a of the Real Property Tax Law, a taxpayer may, within one year of the date of a tax levy, seek a refund for overpayment of tax due to an “error in essential fact.” The taxpayer must file an application with the appropriate county director of real property tax services for refund of the portion of the tax that is based on an erroneous assessment.

Thus, in this case, if the assessor valued the taxpayer’s property, using incorrect acreage as a factor in the real property assessment valuation, and the owner can show such acreage is incorrect by means of a survey, he may be entitled to a refund pursuant to section 556-a. It is to be noted that under section 556-a of the Real Property Tax Law, one is entitled to a refund for only the previous year for incorrect taxes that have been paid due to an error in assessment of acreage.

February 5, 1976

NOTE:  Former Real Property Tax Law, section 556-a was repealed and its substantive provisions were incorporated into Real Property Tax Law, sections 552-556 by Chapter 317 of the Laws of 1986.  The period to apply for corrections of errors in essential fact was extended by Chapter 262 of the Laws of 1999 to end three years after the annexation of the warrant for the tax, thereby rendering inoperative the concluding statement of this opinion (which indicates that only the previous year’s tax may be refunded).