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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 14

Opinions of Counsel index

Tax bills (enclosures) - Tax Law, § 1826:

A county, city, town or village must enact a local law to authorize the enclosure of notices with property tax bills.

We have been asked whether notices of an assessment calendar change (e.g., L.1984, c.379) may be enclosed with tax bills.

Section 1826 of the Tax Law, in applicable part, provides that:

Any person, firm, corporation or association, or agent or employee thereof, who mails or delivers or causes to be mailed or delivered, any notice, circular, pamphlet, card, hand bill, printed or written notice of any kind other than that which is authorized or required by law with a statement of monies due the state of New York or any political subdivision thereof, or with a tax bill or notification of a tax to be assessed or levied by the state of New York or any political subdivision thereof, is guilty of a misdemeanor (emphasis added). {1}

Subdivision 4 of RPTL, section 467, is perhaps the most familiar example of a State law authorizing the enclosure of a notice with a tax bill. That subdivision requires that municipal corporations granting the senior citizens exemption must notify each owner of residential real property of the availability of that exemption, and the municipality is specifically authorized to comply by providing “a notice or legend sent on or with each tax bill.”

The phrase “authorized or required by law” as used in Tax Law, section 1826, has been interpreted by both the Attorney General and the State Comptroller to include authorization pursuant to local law (1959, Op.Atty.Gen. 13; 19 Op.State Compt. 207 (1963) and 23 Op.State Compt. 298 (1967)), as well as by general State statute. Therefore, a county, city, town, or village may itself authorize the enclosure of materials, other than advertising and propaganda material, with that municipality’s property tax bills. {2}  However, the municipality must fast enact a local law requiring the enclosure of a notice concerning appropriate municipal matters in order to enable the collecting officer to legally enclose such materials. Once the local law is enacted, the collecting officer is required to make the enclosure.

In 2 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 90, we interpreted former section 5 of the Tax Law, the predecessor statute of section 1826, to permit a town to enclose with its tax bills a questionnaire asking property owners to state the boundaries of their property. That opinion considered the section heading of former section 5 (and current § 1826) of the Tax Law (i.e., “Use of tax or other notices to distribute advertising and propaganda material”) to be determinative. That is, the seeming intent of the section was not to unnecessarily limit I municipal corporations in notifying taxpayers concerning tax matters, such as the revised assessment calendar in issue here. Our opinion was based on an opinion issued by the State Comptroller in 1958 (14 Op. State Compt. 389). However, this opinion is in conflict with later Comptroller opinions that rely on the Attorney General’s opinion. Therefore, the Attorney General and the State Comptroller are now in agreement concerning section 1826 and ascribe a “plain reading” approach to its interpretation (see, Town of Shandaken v. State Board of Equalization and Assessment, 63 N.Y.2d 442, 472 N.E.2d 989, 483 N.Y.S.2d 161 (1984)).

Accordingly, we are constrained to modify our prior opinion and conclude that a local law is necessary prior to the enclosure of notices with property tax bills.

September 23, 1985

{1}  This section applies to municipal officials (1958, Op.Atty.Gen. (Inf.) 66).

{2}  School districts, however, have no such authority as they are not empowered to adopt local laws (see, 19 Op.State Compt. 49 and 207).