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Volume 6 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 10

Opinions of Counsel index

Farm structures and buildings exemption (term of exemption) (effect of L.1978, c.743) - Real Property Tax Law, § 483:

Farm structures and buildings which were eligible to receive an exemption pursuant to section 483 of the Real Property Tax Law on 1978 assessment rolls which were tentatively filed before August 7, 1978 (effective date of L.1978, c.743), are eligible to receive exempt status for an additional five years. The extended term of the exemption is not applicable to farm structures and buildings which were no longer eligible to receive the exemption on such 1978 tentative assessment rolls for which exemptions had expired in 1977 or before.

With the enactment of amendments to section 483 of the Real Property Tax Law (L.1978, c.743), a question has been raised in regard to the availability of the new ten-year exemption to properties previously granted five-year exemptions.

Section 483 previously provided for a five-year tax exemption on certain new or reconstructed structures or buildings essential to the operation of agricultural and horticultural lands. The law was limited to construction or reconstruction begun after January 1, 1969 and completed before January 1, 1979. The exemption was granted upon timely application filed by the owner of the property and once granted, was continued automatically for five years, unless terminated because the building or structure ceased to be used to carry out farming operations or the land or building or structure was converted to non-agricultural or non-horticultural use.

Chapter 743, effective August 7, 1978, amends section 483 to both extend the final date for completion of construction or reconstruction to before January 1, 1989 (formerly January 1,1979) and expand the term of the exemption from five to ten years. Bill section 4 of chapter 743 provides, in part, that “This act shall take effect immediately . . .” and, when read in conjunction with section 3 of the same act, extends to ten years the term of exemption to “[b]uildings and structures which are receiving an exemption under section four hundred eighty-three of the real property tax law on the assessment roll immediately preceding the effective date of this act . . . .” It is the effect of this language which is in issue, and its resolution necessitates a discussion of the assessment calendar.

Section 302 of the Real Property Tax Law provides that all real property shall he assessed according to its condition and ownership as of taxable status date. Whether a particular parcel satisfies an exemption statute is also determined as of this date (Semple School for Girls v. Borland, 308 N.Y. 382. 126 N.E.2d 294; Young Israel of Far Rockaway, Inc. v. City of New York, 33A.D.2d 561, 305 N.Y.S.2d 432).

In most towns, taxable status date is May 1, and in these towns, the assessor files the tentative assessment roll on or before June 1, as provided in section 506. The Board of Assessment Review then meets on the third Tuesday of June to hear complaints with respect to tentative assessments. The changes ordered by the Board of Assessment Review are then made by the assessor, and the final assessment roll is filed on or before August 1 (§516). A fundamental principle governing this procedure is that once an assessor completes and files the tentative assessment roll, he has no further jurisdiction to make entries on the assessment roll on his own initiative.

Town assessors were required to prepare the 1978 tentative assessment roll based on conditions as they existed on the appropriate 1978 taxable status date. At that time, pursuant to the then existing provisions of section 483, otherwise qualified property was eligible for exempt status for a maximum term of five years. Thus, properties initially found eligible for a farm structures and buildings exemption on town taxable status dates in 1974 or in subsequent years, were, assuming continued eligibility, entitled to have such exempt status reflected on the 1978 town assessment roll. However, property initially found eligible pursuant to section 483 for an exemption in years prior to 1974 were not eligible for exempt status on the 1978 town assessment roll, since the authorized five-year term of eligibility would have previously expired.

As noted above, chapter 743 was signed into law on August 7,1978 and was effective immediately. Section 483 now provides for a ten-year exemption to apply to newly constructed or reconstructed structures where an application for such exemption is initially filed and approved based on town taxable status dates occurring in 1979 or later. Further, properties which received the exemption on 1978 town assessment rolls will now be eligible for a ten-year term commencing from the taxable status date when the exemption was first granted. However, since chapter 743 contained no provisions expressly authorizing the town assessor to make changes to the 1978 assessment roll after it was tentatively completed, farm buildings which qualified for exempt status in previous years but were not eligible for such status on the 1978 taxable status date are not eligible for the extended term (see, 6 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 8).

January 9, 1979