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Volume 6 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 80

Opinions of Counsel index

Municipal corporations exemption (property acquired by tax deed) (scope) (inconsistent charter provisions) - Real Property Tax Law, § 406; Kingston City Charter, § 143:

The City Charter of the City of Kingston supersedes the provisions of section 406 of the Real Property Tax Law concerning the scope of the exemption for property acquired by tax deed by a municipal corporation.

Our opinion has been sought concerning the taxable status of property acquired by tax deed by the City of Kingston. The City Charter of the City of Kingston provides that property thus acquired by the City is exempt from all taxes, including those levied for school purposes, although section 406, subdivision 5, of the Real Property Tax Law provides otherwise (see, 5 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 114).

Section 406, subdivision 5, of the Real Property Tax Law provides that real property acquired by a municipal corporation by tax deed is exempt from taxes and special ad valorem levies for a period of three years from the date of the deed, but remains “liable for taxes for school purposes and special assessments.” Seemingly to the contrary is section 143 of the City Charter of the City of Kingston which provides that “[a]fter the city shall have acquired the title to any lands sold for taxes, such lands shall be exempt while owned by the city from all taxes” (emphasis added). Although we have not previously considered this precise question, an opinion of the State Comptroller construing section 94 of the City Charter of the City of Poughkeepsie, which is identical to section 143 of the Kingston Charter, appears to be opposite here (see, 12 Op.State Compt. 287).

Like that of the City of Poughkeepsie (L.1898, c.425), the Charter of the City Kingston (L.1898, c.747) was enacted into law at the same session of the Legislature as the General Tax Law (L.1898, c.908). The Kingston City Charter became effective May 20, 1896 and the Tax Law took effect one week later. The Comptroller applied two rules of statutory construction in deciding that the provisions of the Poughkeepsie City Charter superseded the predecessor to section 406 (see, McKinney Statutes, § 399). Each of these rules is applicable to the question before us. First, the Kingston City Charter sets forth a separate, complete and independent method of assessment, levy and collection of taxes. Second, several provisions of the City Charter have since been amended by subsequent legislation (see, e.g., L.1911, c.617 and L.1933, c.115, amending section 121 of the Kingston City Charter). Subsequent amendment of a local or special act brings the act within the exception to the general rule that a general law repeals or supersedes a special or local tax act (see, e.g. Carroll v. McArdle, 216 N.Y. 232, 110 N.E.446).

In conclusion, we agree with the analysis of the State Comptroller set forth in 112 Op.State Compt. 287 and believe its rationale to be applicable to the conflict between the provisions of the Charter of the City of Kingston and the Real Property Tax Law. Therefore, property acquired by the City of Kingston tax deed is, indeed, exempt from all taxes, including school levies.

May 29, 1978

Updated: