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Volume 10 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 114

Opinions of Counsel index

Alternative veterans exemption (member of exempt class) (Gold Star Parent) - Real Property Tax Law, § 458-a:

Where a municipality has opted to grant alternative veterans exemptions to Gold Star Parents, a Gold Star Parent, who is the sole owner of property and who also otherwise qualifies for the alternative exemption, may receive but one such exemption. If, however, property is owned by two people, and only one has been receiving an alternative exemption, that owner may continue to receive such exemption, while the other may receive an additional exemption based on his or her Gold Star parental status. The two exemptions may then be combined.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the alternative veterans exemption (Real Property Tax Law, §458-a), specifically, the new amendment (i.e., L.2000, c.326) adding subdivision seven to that law which authorizes counties, cities, towns and villages to adopt local laws to extend the exemption to “Gold Star Parents” (i.e., parents of children who died in the line of duty during wartime). {1}  The question is, if the parents already receive such an alternative exemption on their property on the basis of the military service of one of the parents, may they now receive an additional exemption based on their Gold Star parental status?  In our opinion, it depends on the property’s ownership.

That is, the statute provides an exemption to “qualifying residential real property” which is defined, in part, as “property owned by a qualified owner” (RPTL, §458-a(1)(d)). Section 458-a(7)(b) authorizes those aforementioned municipalities which grant the alternative veterans exemption to “adopt a local law to include a Gold Star Parent within the definition of ‘qualified owner’, as provided in [§458-a(1)(c)].”

Said section 458-a(1)(c) provides:

“Qualified owner” means a veteran, the spouse of a veteran or the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran. Where property is owned by more than one qualified owner, the exemption to which each is entitled may be combined. Where a veteran is also the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran, such person may also receive any exemption to which the deceased spouse was entitled.

Based on the second sentence of this provision, if property is owned by two people, and only one has been receiving an alternative exemption, that owner may continue to receive such exemption, while the other may now receive an additional exemption based on his or her Gold Star parental status. The two exemptions may then be combined.

However, what if there is but one owner who already has the exemption? Before chapter 100 of the Laws of 1988 added the second and third sentences to the above-quoted section 458-a(1)(c), we considered the situation of property owned by a veteran who was also the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran. We said, “The fact that the owner could qualify for exemption under either status (veteran or unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran) does not alter the fact of individual ownership. Accordingly, we believe that a veteran who if also the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran may receive only a single alternative veterans exemption” (8 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 98). We went on to opine that the individual owner could opt to receive whichever of the two exemptions he or she preferred (presumably the larger).

While the law was then amended to specifically authorize an individual who is both a veteran and an unremarried spouse of a veteran to receive both exemptions, our rationale still seems apt, and we note that chapter 326 does not include a dual exemption provision affecting Gold Star Parents. It is a rule of statutory construction “that where a law expressly describes a particular act, thing or person to which it shall apply, an irrefutable inference must be drawn that what is omitted or not included was intended to be omitted or excluded” (McKinney’s Statutes, §240). {2}  It may well be that the drafters of chapter 326 did not consider this issue of dual exemptions, but, given the current statutory language and the aforementioned rule of statutory construction, we are constrained to conclude that, under current law, a Gold Star Parent, who is the sole owner of property and who also otherwise qualifies for the alternative exemption, may receive but one such exemption. {3}

October 25, 2000


{1}  Pursuant to section 458-a(7)(c), only the basic and combat zone portions of the alternative exemption (§458-a(2)(a) and (b)) may be granted to Gold Star Parents, not the disability portion (§458-a(2)(c)).

{2}  This maxim is often stated in the Latin: “expressio unius est exclusio alterius.”

{3}  Naturally, the Legislature could amend the law to permit the combination of exemptions for a veteran/Gold Star Parent.

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