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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 101

Opinions of Counsel index

Tax bills (third party notification) (adult) - Public Service Law, § 40; Real Property Tax Law, §§ 102(9-a), 922, 923:

An “adult third party” for purposes of the third party notification program includes persons 18 years of age or more, not an administrative agency or the position of director of such agency.

Effective with tax billings beginning January 1, 1987, all tax collecting officers are required to include with each tax bill a notice that elderly and disabled taxpayers may designate an adult third party (see, RPTL, §§ 922[1-a], 923[2]) to receive duplicate copies of tax bills and notices of unpaid taxes. Section 102 of the Real Property Tax Law defines an infant or minor as “a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years” (subd. 9-a) (emphasis added). Thus, an adult would be a person eighteen years of age or more. In our judgment, applying this definition of an adult to the third party notice program requires that the statute be read as permitting the designation (as a third party) of an individual, not an administrative agency.

We recognize that this is a question of first impression which has been addressed by neither judicial nor administrative opinion. Although there appear to be no cases directly in point, those in which the word “adult” is construed are universal in defining an “adult” as a person who has attained his or her legal majority (see, e.g., In re Gant, 52 F.2d 223 (M.D., N.C. 1931); Graham v. State, 46 S.W.2d 709 (Texas Ct. of Crim. App., 1932); State v. Jackson, 28 N.C. 563, 187 S.E.2d 27 (S. Ct., N.C. 1972)). That being so, and there being no indication of a contrary legislative intent, we believe the ordinary meaning of “adult” should be applied to the statutes in question and that, therefore, a third party designee for receipt of notices of unpaid taxes must be a specific person rather than an administrative agency, position or job title within that agency.

However, if a person who occupies the office of agency director (or other staff position) accepts a third party designation in his or her own name, this designation would be consistent with both the letter and spirit of the law. (Since the designee must sign the consent, an individual, not the position or office held, is clearly implied.)

November 20, 1986