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Volume 9 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 95

Opinions of Counsel index

Villages (non-assessing units) (taxable status date - effect on exemptions) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 1400,1402(3):

In administering local option exemptions in non-assessing unit villages, eligibility is measured as of the town taxable status date.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the administration of exemptions in a village which has ceded its assessment responsibilities to the town.

Like most villages, the village in question has a fiscal year commencing on June 1 (Village Law, § 5-500). Village assessing units with a June 1 fiscal year have a January 1 taxable status date (Real Property Tax Law (RPTL), § 1400).

Pursuant to a 1991 local law, the village opted to terminate its assessing unit status (RPTL, § 1402(3)). In non-assessing unit villages, the village levies its taxes on the village portion of the latest final town assessment roll, and the town taxable status date applicable to that town roll (i.e., March 1 in most towns - RPTL, § 302(1)) governs for village tax purposes (RPTL, § 1402(3)(c)). {1}

The village did in fact levy its 1992-1993 village tax on the village portion of the 1991 town assessment roll. After the levy occurred, the town assessor realized that he had failed to enter alternative veterans exemptions (RPTL, § 458-a) on the village tax roll. {2}  Clearly, pursuant to section 1402(3), the copy of the 1991 town roll excerpt the town assessor gave to the village for its 1992-1993 tax levy purposes should have been modified to include the exemptions (8 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 16).

This is a problem which can and should be rectified administratively in accordance with the correction of errors procedures in title 3 of Article 5 of the RPTL. The incorrect entry of assessed value on an assessment or tax roll due to the failure of an assessor to act on a partial exemption is a “clerical error” (RPTL, § 550(2)(c)), which is correctable for three years after the tax levy (RPTL, § 556(l)(a)). That is what occurred here: the town assessor failed to act on any alternative veterans exemptions for village tax purposes. {3}

There was also a perceived problem concerning some senior citizens exemptions (RPTL, § 467). Apparently, some people did not qualify for the exemption as of March 1, 1991, although these owners were qualified by January 1, 1992. For example, some of the property owners may have initially satisfied the two-year length of ownership requirement (RPTL, § 467(3)(b)) between those two dates. Others may have attained age 65 between the two dates. {4}

Nevertheless, these taxpayers were not qualified for 1992-1993 village tax purposes, because, as noted above, the town taxable status date controls for purposes of a non-assessing unit village. Therefore, on March 1, 1991, the applicable taxable status date for the town’s 1991 assessment roll, these taxpayers were not yet entitled to the exemption. Their status on the 1991 town roll became the basis of the village tax roll for 1992-1993. Accordingly, the fact that these property owners did not receive the exemption for 1992-1993 village tax purposes was correct exemption administration.

October 14, 1992

{1}  Since most towns with a March 1 taxable status date file their final assessment rolls on or before July 1 (RPTL, § 516(1)), most non-assessing unit villages (with June 1 fiscal years) levy their village taxes on town assessment rolls completed in the preceding calendar year.

{2}  The error occurred because, in 1991, the town did not authorize the alternative veterans exemption for town tax purposes, but the village did. That is, when the alternative veterans exemption was first enacted (L.1984, c.525), counties, cities, towns and villages were given the option to adopt local laws to provide that the exemption would not be allowed for purposes of that municipality’s tax. Such local law had to be adopted no later than 90 days before the taxable status date next occurring on or after December 31, 1984 (RPTL, § 458-a(4)(a)). Here, the town opted out; the village did not.

{3}  We distinguish the situation where an assessor considers an application for an exemption but then denies the same. There, the taxpayer’s remedy is to seek administrative and (if necessary) judicial review of the assessor’s denial of exempt status. For non-assessing unit villages, administrative review is obtainable from the town board of assessment review.

{4}  Note that section 467(5) of the RPTL now authorizes those municipal corporations which pant the senior citizens exemption to provide that “any person otherwise qualifying under this section shall not be denied the exemption under this section if he becomes sixty-five years of age after the appropriate taxable status date and on or before December thirty-first of the same year.” The village in question has not elected that option.