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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 78

Opinions of Counsel index

Taxes, enforcement (methods of-personal liability) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 926, 990, 1334, 1440:

Although payment of delinquent taxes is generally enforced by actions against the property, there are statutory means for imposing personal liability.

In addition to the traditional enforcement of the collection of unpaid taxes by means of sales of tax liens subject to redemption (see, e.g., Real Property Tax Law, §§ 1006, 1454), the Real Property Tax Law [RPTL] offers several alternative remedies for imposing personal liability.

Section 926 of the RPTL makes owners of real property personally liable for taxes levied on their property, if they are residents of the city or town in which the property is located, and if their names are correctly entered on the roll. The procedure requires the collecting officer to call on any person so personally liable and demand payment, after January 31. If the owner refuses to pay the taxes, the collecting officer is authorized to levy upon any personal property belonging to that person in the county.

Section 926 further provides that if the taxes on a parcel cannot be collected because the owner has moved to another county in the State, application may be made to the county court for an order directing the sheriff of the other county to collect the taxes due by levy and sale of the personal property of the owner.

Section 990 of the RPTL then provides for supplementary proceedings to collect taxes which remain unpaid. If a tax exceeding 10 dollars is returned by a collecting officer as uncollected for lack of personal property out of which to collect it, the county treasurer may, within one year thereafter, apply to the court for the institution of proceedings supplementary to execution, as upon a judgment docketed in the county, for the purpose of collecting the tax with fees and interest thereon. This type of proceeding may be taken against corporations and individuals.

In considering use of these remedies, however, a municipality must also weigh the effects of a decision of the Court of Appeals that if a municipal corporation sells a tax lien against a particular parcel, it cannot then revert to the provisions of section 926 to satisfy any taxes remaining unpaid after foreclosure of that lien (see, City of Buffalo v. Cargill, Inc., 44 N.Y.2d 7, 374 N.E.2d 372, 403 N.Y.S.2d 473 (1978)).

Section 1440 of the RPTL provides a procedure for villages to enforce the collection of unpaid taxes by means of an action as upon contract. It is our understanding that the Village of Spring Valley (Rockland County) has successfully used this remedy for several years.

Section 1334 of the RPTL provides school districts with another alternative to enforcement of unpaid taxes by tax lien sale. Following expiration of the warrant, school authorities may “sue for and recover” unpaid taxes. Given the “guarantee” of unpaid school taxes by counties and cities (RPTL, §§ 1330, 1332), it seems unlikely that a school district would even consider pursuing this remedy except in the rarest of circumstances.

August 6, 1985