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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 91

Opinions of Counsel index

Forest and reforested lands exemption (substantive changes made by L.1976, c.526) - Real Property Tax Law, § 480-a:

Besides delaying the effective date of the exemption granted by section 480-a of the Real Property Tax Law until July 1, 1977 (L.1976, c.422), the 1976 Legislature also made substantive amendments to the statute (L.1976, c.526). A new formula based on assessed value or acreage value has been adopted. Taxpayers who had applied for the exemption prior to the adoption of chapter 526 must now reapply for certification.

Our opinion has been requested concerning section 480-a of the Real Property Tax Law relating to the taxation of forest lands. The specific question is whether any amendments were enacted during the 1976 legislative session which would delay the effective date of the section.

Amendments were enacted to section 480-a by two chapters of the Laws of 1976. Chapter 422 delays for another year the provisions of section 480-a so as to apply the exemption granted by this section only to assessment rolls based on taxable status dates occurring on or after July 1, 1977.

Chapter 526, effective when signed into law by the Governor on July 20, 1976, makes substantive changes to section 480-a which will apply to assessment rolls prepared on the basis of taxable status dates occurring after July 1, 1977. Therefore, these provisions will apply for the first time with respect to town assessment rolls prepared in 1978.

Under Chapter 526, to obtain an exemption the owner of at least 50 contiguous acres of forest land applies for certification to the Department of Environmental Conservation and must commit the land to continued forest crop production for a period of 10 years under a specified management plan. Such lands would then be eligible for an exemption to the extent of 80 percent of the assessed valuation or to the extent that the market value indicated by the assessed valuation exceeds 40 dollars an acre, whichever is the lesser. Upon failure to comply with the management plan or upon conversion of the land to another use, the land would be liable to a penalty of two times the taxes which would have been levied on the preceding assessment roll, or a rollback tax measured by an amount that normally would have been levied had no exemption been allowed multiplied by two and one half plus six percent interest compounded annually, whichever is greater.

Thus, subdivision 9 of section 480-a, as amended by Chapter 526 provides as follows:

9. The provisions of this section shall only be applicable to assessment rolls with taxable status dates occurring on or after July first, nineteen hundred seventy-seven. Owners who applied for certification under this section as in effect immediately prior to the effective date of the amendments to this section shall reapply for certification under this section, as amended, and shall be in all respects governed by the requirements of this section, as amended.

Since section 480-a was inoperative with respect to town assessment rolls prepared in 1976, this Board did not establish forest land values which might normally be used in preparing assessment rolls this year.

August 18, 1976