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Volume 11 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 1

Opinions of Counsel index

Tax roll (posted tax roll) (electronic data processing); Taxes (delinquent) (return of unpaid taxes - format) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 936, 1582, 1588:

A tax collecting officer need not manually enter tax payment information on the tax roll when the requirements of section 1588 of the Real Property Tax Law (e.g., payment information is entered into the data file and retained by means of electronic data processing) are satisfied.

Absent agreement with the county treasurer, the tax collecting officer must deliver the return of unpaid taxes in a traditional (i.e., paper) format, with the required endorsements physically entered on the posted tax roll or annexed thereto.

We have received two related inquiries concerning the use of electronic data processing in the administration of the “posted tax roll.” The first is whether a tax collecting officer must manually post tax payment information upon the tax roll. The second is whether the county is obliged to accept a return of unpaid taxes in an electronic format, absent an agreement to do so.

Posted tax roll

To begin, it is the tax collecting officer’s responsibility to maintain tax payment records. In 3 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 18, we interpreted section 502(7) of the Real Property Tax Law as requiring “local tax collectors to enter [on the tax roll] the amount of tax and the date of payment for each parcel entered.” Since the enactment of Article 15-C of the RPTL (by L.1981, c.773), the term “posted tax roll” has been defined for purposes of that Article as “a tax roll including the date of payment of a tax, any receipt number and related information” (RPTL, §1581(4)).

As to what form the posted tax roll may take, this issue is generally addressed by section 1588 of the RPTL, which reads as follows:

Posted tax roll. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, information regarding date of payment of taxes, the receipt number and related information need not be posted on the tax roll or other printed record of payment if that information is entered into the data file {1} and retained by means of electronic data processing. This information must be stored so that it can be made readily available to the public in legible form. At the conclusion of the period for the redemption of property from taxes which become a lien on such roll, a copy of the posted tax roll shall be produced in either a paper format or archival quality microform and be permanently retained as a public record (emphasis added).

Thus, when the requirements of section 1588 are satisfied, the tax collecting officer need not manually enter tax payment information on the tax roll.

Return of unpaid taxes

As to how the return of unpaid taxes should be made when the posted tax roll has been prepared electronically, the applicable statute is section 936 of the RPTL, subdivision one of which states in pertinent part:

Upon the expiration of his warrant, each collecting officer shall make and deliver to the county treasurer an account, subscribed and affirmed by him as true under the penalties of perjury, of all taxes listed on the tax roll which remain unpaid.... The county treasurer shall, if satisfied that such account is correct, credit him with the amount of such unpaid delinquent taxes. Such return shall be endorsed upon or attached to the tax roll (emphasis added).

In other words, section 936 requires the return of unpaid taxes to be accomplished via the delivery of the tax roll, with the appropriate endorsements entered thereon or attached thereto. While section 936 is silent as to whether this may be done electronically, this issue is addressed by the aforementioned Article 15-C of the RPTL (which generally accommodates the use of computers in real property tax administration), and more particularly by section 1582(2) thereof, which states:

Where a provision of law requires the delivery of an assessment roll or tax roll and there is agreement between the recipient and the person or body responsible for the delivery, the data file which includes the information necessary to the preparation of the roll may be delivered in lieu of the document itself (emphasis added).

Lest there be any doubt as to what this language means, we have construed it as follows:

When the law requires the delivery or filing of an assessment roll or tax roll, and the roll is machine readable, the tape or disk on which the roll data has been assembled may be delivered or filed if the parties to the transaction agree (§1582(2)); otherwise, a “hard” copy of the roll must be prepared and delivered or filed instead. (Memo of April 5, 1982 to Assessors and Real Property Tax Administrators, p.2, emphasis added.)

Thus, the tax collecting officer may certainly maintain a posted tax roll for the town’s purposes in an electronic format, and, if the county treasurer agrees, may deliver the roll in that format when making the return of unpaid taxes. But, if the county treasurer {2} does not so agree, in our opinion, the tax collecting officer must deliver the tax roll in a traditional (i.e., paper) format, with the required endorsements physically entered thereon or annexed thereto.

October 25, 2000 and May 10, 2001


{1}  A “data file” is “the compilation of assessment information used in the preparation of assessment rolls, tax rolls, tax bills or any combination thereof, in a system of real property tax administration which employs electronic data processing equipment” (RPTL, §1581(1)).

{2}  The term “county treasurer” as used in the RPTL includes a county commissioner of finance (see, RPTL, §102(9)).

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