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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 78

Opinions of Counsel index

Veterans exemption; Alternate veterans exemption (member of exempt class) (American Field Service) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 458, 458-a:

Service in the American Field Service during World War II does not qualify an individual for either the eligible funds veterans exemption or the alternative veterans exemption.

Our opinion has been requested concerning an individual’s eligibility for veterans exemptions (Real Property Tax Law (RPTL), §§ 458, 458-a). The individual in question apparently served in the American Field Service during World War II. According to his DD-214 form, he received such document in accordance with Public Law, 95-202. Now, he argues that, since members of the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II have been declared to be eligible for the veterans exemptions, members of the American Field Service should be treated similarly.

Shortly after enactment of the alternative veterans exemption (RPTL, § 458-a; added L.1984, c.525), we issued an opinion that World War II members of the Merchant Marine did not qualify for the exemption (8 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 88). Thereafter, following the court’s decision in Schumacher v. Aldridge, 665 F.Supp. 41 (D.D.C. 1987), we were asked to reconsider our opinion. In a March 28, 1988 memorandum to county directors of real property tax services, we reaffirmed our prior opinion. Our position led to the adoption of chapter 701 of the Laws of 1989 to specifically define a certain category of World War II Merchant Mariners as veterans for purposes of sections 458 and 458-a.

The applicant here is in much the same situation as were the Merchant Marine members prior to the 1989 amendment. He does not appear to fit within the statutory definition of veteran under current law {*} and, therefore, does not qualify for the exemption. His only recourse appears to lie with the Legislature. An amendment similar to chapter 701 of the Laws of 1989 would be necessary for American Field Service personnel to be eligible for either veterans exemption.

December 9, 1991

NOTE:  Superseded by L.1995, c.616.

{*}  In chapter 685 of the Laws of 1991, the Legislature amended several sections of law, including section 13-a of the General Construction Law (i.e., definition of “armed forces of the United States”) to add the same Merchant Mariners to the definition. American Field Service members have not been similarly recognized.