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Volume 11 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 110

Opinions of Counsel index

Exemptions, generally (multiple exemptions) (sequential application); Alternative veterans exemption (generally) (property also entitled to other exemptions); Clergy exemption (generally) (property also entitled to other exemptions); Persons with disabilities and limited incomes exemption (generally) (property also entitled to other exemptions); School tax relief [STAR] exemption (generally) (property also entitled to other exemptions); Senior citizens exemption (generally) (computation of exemption where property entitled to other exemptions); Veterans exemption (generally) (property also entitled to other exemptions); Volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers exemption [Westchester Co.] (parcel also entitled to other exemptions) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 425, 458, 458-a, 459-c, 460, 466-d, 467:

Where property is entitled to multiple exemptions, fixed-dollar exemptions are subtracted first from assessed value. Percentage-based exemptions are then applied to the taxable value remaining after the subtraction of the fixed-dollar exemptions. Next, where applicable, the persons with disabilities and limited incomes exemption or senior citizens exemption is applied. The school tax relief [STAR] exemption, where applicable, is applied last.

We have been asked in what sequence multiple partial exemptions are to be applied to a parcel. As an example, the requester asks if the volunteer firefighters/ambulance workers exemption for Westchester County (Real Property Tax Law, §466-d) is to be applied before or after other partial exemptions such as the senior citizens exemption (RPTL, §467), veterans exemption (RPTL, §§458, 458-a), or school tax relief [STAR] exemption are applied.

At the outset, we reiterate the oft-cited rule that tax exemptions are to be strictly construed though not so strictly as to defeat legislative intent (People ex rel. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc., Inc. v. Haring, 8 N.Y.2d 350, 170 N.E.2d 677, 207 N.Y.S.2d 673 (1960); Newsday, Inc. v. Huntington, 82 A.D.2d 245, 441 N.Y.S.2d 689 (2d Dept., 1981), aff’d, 55 N.Y.2d 272, 434 N.E.2d 226, 449 N.Y.S.2d 157 (1982); McKinney’s Statutes, §294). In our opinion, it necessarily follows that, where a parcel is entitled to more than one partial exemption, unless the order of the exemptions is dictated by statute, they should be applied in an order that will result in the highest taxable assessed value.

As we state in the New York State Assessor’s Manual (Vol.4, §1.00, p.1.11 (1/1/95)), where property is entitled to multiple exemptions, all fixed-dollar exemptions (e.g., RPTL, §§458, 460) are subtracted first from assessed value; percentage-based exemptions (e.g., RPTL, §§466-d, 458-a) are then applied to the taxable value remaining after the subtraction of the fixed-dollar exemptions. {1}  Care should be taken to ensure that multiple percentage-based exemptions to which the parcel may be entitled are each applied to the assessed value remaining after the fixed-dollar exemptions are subtracted from the total assessed value. By doing so, a volunteer firefighter/ambulance worker should receive his or her full 10 percent exemption (in Westchester Co.) regardless of whether he or she also receives, perhaps, an alternative veterans exemption. By statute, however, the percentage-based senior citizens exemption or persons with disabilities and limited incomes exemption is applied after all other exemptions are applied (RPTL, §§467(1)(c), {2} 459-c(3)), {3} except for the school tax relief [STAR] exemption which, where it is applicable, is always applied last (RPTL, §425(7)(b)).

August 27, 2007


{1}  Applying the fixed-dollar exemptions first and then the percentage-based exemptions results in a higher taxable assessed value than would result if the order were reversed.

{2}  We had expressed this opinion before the statute was amended (L.1975, c.535, §1) to so provide (1 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 32; 2 id. No. 105).

{3}  Note that a parcel may not receive a senior citizens exemption and a persons with disabilities and limited incomes exemption for the same municipal tax purpose (RPTL, §459-c(3)).

Updated: