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Volume 6 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 77

Opinions of Counsel index

Farm structures and buildings exemption (term of exemption) (lapse and retroactivity - effect of L.1979, c.72) - Real Property Tax Law, § 483:

Chapter 72 of the Laws of 1979 extends for an additional 5 year period the exemption for farm structures and buildings (Real Property Tax Law, § 483) which previously received an exemption for the fifth and final year on the 1977 assessment roll. No provision of law exists for the retroactive application of the exemption to the 1978 assessment roll.

Our opinion has been requested as to the effect of the extended period of exemption authorized by chapter 72 of the Laws of 1979. In this inquiry the taxpayer claims that he is entitled to an exemption retroactively on the 1978 final assessment roll and also contends that such correction is provided for under Title 3 of Article 5 of the Real Property Tax Law.

Section 302 of the Real Property Tax Law provides that all real property shall be assessed according to its condition and ownership as of taxable status date. Whether a particular parcel satisfies an exemption statute is also determined as of this date (Semple School for Girls v. Boyland, 308 N.Y. 382, 126 N.E.2d 294; Young Israel of Far Rockaway, Inc. v. City of New York, 33A.D.2d 561, 305 N.Y.S.2d 432; but see, §§ 302(3) and 520 regarding transfers of exempt property).

Section 2 of chapter 72 of the Laws of 1979 extends for an additional five year period the exemption from taxation for structures and buildings essential to the operation of agricultural and horticultural lands for those properties which previously received an exemption for the fifth and final year on the final assessment roll completed and filed in 1977. Prior to this enactment, properties which had received the exemption on earlier assessment rolls, where the last year of the five year period occurred on the 1977 or earlier assessment roll, were not entitled to an extended term. [Chapter 743 of the Laws of 1978 increased the period of exemption in section 483 from five to ten years to apply prospectively for new applicants and also to properties receiving the exemption on 1978 assessment rolls.] Chapter 72 merely makes properties, which received an exemption for the last year of the former five year period on the 1977 town assessment roll, eligible for the additional five year period of exemption.

No provision in chapter 72 expressly authorizes an assessor to make changes the 1978 assessment roll after it was tentatively completed. If a farm building as not eligible for exempt status pursuant to section 483 on the 1978 taxable status date, it was not eligible for the extended term (see, L.1978, c.743; 6 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 10). The 1979 amendment did not retroactively include the assessment roll prepared for 1978 nor did it empower an assessor to make post-taxable status date changes. Where the original period of exemption expired on the 1977 town assessment roll, chapter 72 authorizes an additional five year term exemption commencing with the 1979 town assessment roll.

Even assuming, arguendo, that a retroactive effect was intended, assessors are powerless to change either the 1977 or 1978 assessment roll at this time. The correction procedures set forth in Title 3 of Article 5 of the Real Property Law are not applicable because in 1978, the year of lapse, the property was eligible for exemption. The taxpayer’s attempt to use the Title is without it since no clerical error, error in essential fact or unlawful entry on the tax roll was made (§ 550(2), (3) and (7)).

To summarize, section 483 has never and does not now provide for the retroactive application of its exemption for years where such exemption had lapsed, nor does any administrative procedure exist for such a change. Title 3, Article 5 correction procedures are inapplicable.

July 31, 1979

Updated: