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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 120

Opinions of Counsel index

Exemptions, generally (authority to grant) (aged sliding scale) - Municipal Home Rule Law, § 10; Real Property Tax Law, § 467:

A municipal corporation may not adopt an aged exemption sliding scale formula which differs from that set forth in section 467 of the RPTL.

A municipal corporation adopted the “sliding scale” provisions of the aged exemption (RPTL, § 467) but reduced percentages of exemptions granted based upon $250 income increments, not the $500 categories provided in the statute (RPTL, § 467(1)(b)).

Section 1 of Article XVI of the State Constitution provides that exemptions “may be granted only by general laws”. State law provides that “all real property within the state shall be subject to real property taxation, special ad valorem levies and special assessments unless exempt therefrom by law” (RPTL, § 300). In construing the predecessor to section 300 of the RPTL, the Court of Appeals has held that State “law”, as referred to in the statute, is a law as prescribed by the State Legislature (Board of Education v. Town of Greenburgh, 277 N.Y. 193, 12 N.E.2d 768 (1933)).

Municipalities may not act in excess of the power conferred upon them by the Legislature (Rose v. Eichhorst, 42 N.Y.2d 92, 365 N.E.2d 868, 396 N.Y.S.2d 837 (1977)). A municipality may adopt laws relating to the administration of local taxes only if these local laws are consistent with State laws (see, City of White Plains v. Del Bello, 87 A.D.2d 483, 452 N.Y.S.2d 71 (2d Dept. 1982), lv. to app. den., 57 N.Y.2d 923, 442 N.E.2d 1275, 456 N.Y.S.2d 764 (1982); Rab Co. v. Tompkins County Board of Assessment Review, 68 A.D.2d 374, 417 N.Y.S.2d 788 (3d Dept. 1979)).

More particularly as to exemptions, it has been stated, “Unless authorized by state statute [a city] has no power to legislate in regard to tax exemptions” (London v. Wagner, 22 Misc.2d 360, 195 N.Y.S.2d 550, 554 (Sup.Ct., N.Y. County, 1959), aff’d, 13 A.D.2d 479, 214 N.Y.S.2d 647 (1st Dept. 1961), aff’d 11 N.Y.2d 762, 181 N.E.2d 759, 227 N.Y.S.2d 13 (1962)). Similarly, “in matters of taxation, a city exercises merely delegated powers from the State, and has no jurisdiction or authority beyond. And it has no inherent power to grant exemptions from taxation” (Troy Union R. Co. v. City of Troy, 227 App.Div. 351, 238 N.Y.S. 577, 580 (3d Dept. 1929), aff’d 253 N.Y. 597, 171 N.E. 798 (1930); see also, L.L.F. Realty v. Fuchs, 273 App.Div. 111, 75 N.Y.S.2d 356 (1st Dept. 1947)). Finally, as to the veterans exemption (i.e., RPTL, § 458), the Appellate Division has stated, “The City Council is without jurisdiction to take action contrary to State law . . .” (Anastasio v. City of New York, 93 A.D.2d 769, 461 N.Y.S.2d 337, 339 (1st Dept., 1983), aff’d, 61 N.Y.2d 615, 459 N.E.2d 1287, 471 N.Y.S.2d 850 (1980)).

Accordingly, it is our opinion that municipal corporations may exercise only those options with respect to the aged exemption that have been made available by the State Legislature (see, 3 Op. Counsel SBEA No. 70). That is, the municipal corporation may choose: (1) whether to grant the aged exemption; (2) to establish an income ceiling set at any figure between $3,000 and $12,025 as provided in section 467(3)(a); and (3) to grant the sliding scale exemption, increasing eligibility by up to $3,000 above the locally established limit, as provided in State law (§ 467(1)(b)).

Clearly, therefore, if a municipal corporation chooses to grant the sliding scale aged exemption, it may adopt a local law or resolution to do so. However, that resolution may only grant the reduced percentage exemption in accordance with the statutory schedule contained in section 467(1)(b).

April 17, 1987