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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 104

Opinions of Counsel index

Taxes (delinquent) (name of owner) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 518, 574, 936:

The return of the collecting officer must include, for each parcel listed therein, the name of the owner as of taxable status date. If a parcel listed in the return was transferred after taxable status date, and the name of the new owner was added to the assessment roll or the tax roll, the new owner’s name must appear, together with the former owner’s name, on the collecting officer’s return as well.

Our opinion has been requested regarding descriptions of parcels on the tax collector’s return of unpaid real property taxes (Real Property Tax Law, § 936). The specific question is, if a parcel has been transferred to a new owner after taxable status date, whether the name of the current owner or the former owner should appear in the parcel’s description on the return.

Real property is assessed according to its condition and ownership as of the applicable “taxable status date” (RPTL, § 302). Thus, we have stated that, if the ownership of a parcel changes after taxable status date, the name of the former owner must nevertheless continue to appear on the assessment roll and tax roll which are prepared on the basis of that taxable status date (3 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 96).

Of course, the name and address of a new owner is essential information for purposes of assessment administration. Section 574 of the RPTL provides that assessors and other local assessment officials must be notified of transfers occurring after taxable status date. Section 518 of the RPTL provides that, when an assessor receives notice of a transfer which occurred after taxable status date, an entry of the new tax billing address shall be made on the applicable “data file” {*} or, if there be none, on the assessment roll itself. Nevertheless, the name of the new owner may not replace the name of the former owner on the roll, for section 518 further directs that “[n]othing contained herein shall be construed to authorize a change of the name of the owner included in the data file or appearing on the roll.”

In implementing sections 518 and 574, the State Board’s Rules provide, in pertinent part:

(b) The form of the assessment roll for each assessing unit shall also provide for the inclusion of the following information for each parcel:

(1) name, mailing address and tax billing address of the owner, reputed owner or last known owner of each parcel as of taxable status date; provided, however, that the form of the assessment roll may also provide for the inclusion of the name of an owner who acquires title to an entire parcel of real property after taxable status date and for the substitution of a new mailing or tax billing address of such new owner for the address of the owner as of taxable status date (9 NYCRR 190-1.3(b)(1)).

Thus, assessment and tax rolls are clearly required to show the name of the original owner, but they may also include the name of the new owner.

The return of the collecting officer is a separate document, which serves’ to transfer jurisdiction over outstanding taxes from the collecting officer to the enforcing officer. As section 936(1) of the RPTL provides:

Upon the expiration of his warrant, each collecting officer shall make and deliver to the county treasurer an account, subscribed and affirmed by him as true under the penalties of perjury, of all taxes listed on the tax roll which remain unpaid. . . . The county treasurer shall, if satisfied that such account is correct, credit him with the amount of such unpaid delinquent taxes. Such return shall be in the form prescribed by the state board and shall be endorsed upon or attached to the tax roll.

Neither section 936 nor the State Board’s Rules specifically address what name must appear in the description of property appearing in a tax collector’s return of unpaid taxes. We note, however, that an accurate description is a prerequisite to the enforcement of delinquent taxes (see, 5 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 31; 8 id. No. 68; see also, RPTL, § 557(2)(a)). Since the return is the basis of the treasurer’s jurisdiction to enforce delinquent taxes, we believe that the descriptions thereon must conform to the descriptions on the tax roll.

Consequently, the names of the owners as of taxable status date must be included on the collector’s return. If the names of the new owners appeared on the tax roll, we believe that they must appear on the return as well.

September 25, 1992

{*}  The term “data file” is defined in section 1581(1) of the RPTL as a “compilation of assessment information used in the preparation of assessment rolls, tax rolls, tax bills or any combination thereof, in a system of real property tax administration which employs electronic data processing equipment.”