Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 65
Clergymen’s exemption (scope and computation) (ownership by two clergymen) - Real Property Tax Law, § 460:
If two clergymen meeting the requirements of section 460 own the same parcel, each is entitled to a $1500 exemption. If they are joint tenants, each may apply his exemption to the full valuation of the entire parcel. If they are tenants in common, each may apply his exemption only to the full value of his share of the parcel.
We have received an inquiry concerning the maximum exemption which may be granted upon real property owned by two clergymen.
Section 460 of the Real Property Tax Law provides in part as follows:
§ 460. Clergy
Real property owned by a minister of the gospel, priest or rabbi of any denomination, an actual resident and inhabitant of this state, who is engaged in the work assigned to him by the church or denomination of which he is a member, or who is unable to perform such work due to impaired health or is over seventy years of age, . . . shall be exempt from taxation to the extent of fifteen hundred dollars.
Thus, a clergyman who meets the requirements of the above statute is entitled to a limited exemption of $1,500 upon real property owned by him. Since the statute does not qualify or restrict the form or nature of ownership, two persons can be owners of the same property and each can qualify for an exemption on the same property provided they meet the above statutory requirements.
Accordingly, if both clergymen, who own the same parcel, meet the above statutory requirements, each one would be entitled to a limited exemption of $1,500.
However, if only one clergyman meets the statutory requirements and the other does not, then in order to compute the allowable exemption, it would be necessary for the assessor to ascertain whether the property is owned by the clergymen as joint tenants or as tenants in common.
If the property is owned as tenants in common, and only one clergyman meets the statutory requirements, then the exemption should be computed on the basis of the full valuation of one half of the property. The maximum exemption of $1,500 still may be granted if the total full valuation of the property is $3,000 or more. For instance, if the full valuation of the property is $2,000 and only one clergyman qualifies, the maximum exemption that might be granted would be $1,000.
If, on the other hand, the property is owned by the clergymen as joint tenants, then the exemption should be computed on the basis of the full valuation of the entire property. Therefore, if only one clergyman qualifies and the full valuation of the entire property is $1,500 or more, the maximum exemption that might be granted would be $1,500.
January 24, 1961
NOTE: This inquiry came from a locality which deducts the clergyman’s exemption from full value.