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Volume 12 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 26

Opinions of Counsel index

Cold War veterans exemption (defined period overlapping other periods of war) - Real Property Tax Law § 458-b:

For purposes of the Cold War veterans exemption, the statutorily-defined Cold War period begins before the end of World War II, encompasses the entire Korean and Vietnam War periods and extends into the defined onset of the Persian Gulf conflict, but the overlapping dates should not complicate assessment administration since a veteran eligible for more than one veterans exemption must choose which exemption he or she wishes to seek.

We have received an inquiry concerning the Cold War veterans exemption (Real Property Tax Law, § 458-b). The assessor notes that the Cold War period is defined to have begun on September 2, 1945 but that World War II is deemed to have ended December 31, 1946. The assessor seeks an explanation and notes the apparent conflict with the alternative veterans exemption (RPTL, § 458-a).

The two defined periods do indeed overlap but that appears to be correct. The Cold War period is statutorily defined as September 2, 1945 – December 26, 1991 (RPTL, § 458-b(1)(a)). Section 458-a(1)(a) specifies the periods of war to which that exemption applies. World War II is included but the dates of that war are not set forth in the statute (the same being true for the Spanish-American War and World War I but not for the Korean War, Vietnam War and Persian Gulf conflict for which dates are statutorily specified). As we explained in 8 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 69 (written before the onset of the Persian Gulf conflict):

[A] comparison of the statutory definitions included in section 458-a and those in section 101 of Title 38 of the United States Code, relating to veterans benefits, indicates that the definitions in the New York statute are derived from and based upon those in the Federal law. Accordingly, it is our opinion that for purposes of defining the wars and conflicts which preceded the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, it is appropriate to refer to the Federal definitions.

Later in that opinion, we state that “World War II is the period beginning December 7, 1941 and ending December 31, 1946 (38 U.S.C. § 101(8)).” While we can offer no definitive reason as to why Congress chose December 31, 1946 as the termination date for World War II (insofar as Title 38 veterans benefits are concerned), we note that President Truman declared that date to be the cessation of hostilities (Proclamation No. 2714 as cited by the courts in Werner v. United States, 188 F2d 266 (9th Cir 1951) and United States v. Certain Parcels of Land, 102 F Supp 691 (WD Pa 1952)).

In addition to the statutorily-defined Cold War period beginning before the end of World War II, the defined Cold War period encompasses the entire Korean and Vietnam War periods and extends into the defined onset of the Persian Gulf conflict. It is important to note, however, that veterans who receive either an alternative veterans exemption or an eligible funds veterans exemption (RPTL, § 458) cannot concurrently receive the Cold War veterans exemption (RPTL, § 458-b(2)(c)(ii); 12 Op.Counsel SBRPS No. 14). As such, the overlapping dates should not complicate assessment administration since a veteran eligible for more than one exemption will have to choose which exemption he or she wishes to seek.

March 20, 2009
Revised April 15, 2009

Updated: