Skip to main content

Volume 11 - Opinions of Counsel SBRPS No. 114

Opinions of Counsel index

Senior citizens exemption (income requirement) (payments to victims of Nazi persecution) - Real Property Tax Law, § 467:

In computing income for purposes of the senior citizens exemption, a World War II prisoner of war may deduct moneys he receives from Germany if those moneys were paid as reparations for Nazi persecution.

We have received an inquiry concerning the senior citizens exemption (Real Property Tax Law, § 467). The assessor states that an applicant is a native of Yugoslavia who fought on the side of the Allies in World War II. He was captured and imprisoned by the Nazis. He has now been a U.S. citizen for many years and receives money from Germany for being a prisoner of war. The question is if those moneys should be treated as income for purposes of the exemption.

While the definition of income for purposes of the senior citizens exemption is quite inclusive, it specifically excludes “payments made to individuals because of their status as victims of Nazi persecution, as defined in [Public Law] 103-286 . . .” (§ 467(3)(a)). This exclusion from the statutory income definition was added by chapter 713 of the Laws of 1996, a law which amended several statutes in addition to section 467. The cited federal law excludes such payments “in determining eligibility for and the amount of benefits or services to be provided under any Federal or federally assisted program which provides benefits or services based, in whole or in part, on need” (42 USCS § 1437(a) [note]).

The sponsor’s memorandum for the bill enacted as chapter 713 of the Laws of 1996 states: “Many means-tested benefits programs exclude certain types of income when calculating eligibility. . . . This legislation would enact a similar exception, consistent with federal law (P.L. 103-286), for payments made to individuals because of their status as victims of nazi [sic] persecution when calculating eligibility for means-tested benefit programs” (Memorandum of M. of A. McLaughlin reprinted at 1996 NYS Legislative Annual, p. 543). In approving the legislation, the Governor wrote: “The bill will bring New York into harmony with federal law by broadening the exclusion to cover all reparation payments made under any German or Austrian Act” (1996 Governor’s Approval Memorandum #109 reprinted at 1996 NYS Legislative Annual, pp.543, 544).

In other words, while section 467 of the RPTL is not a federal or federally assisted program, the Legislature and Governor chose to make its income requirement consistent with those laws that exclude reparation moneys paid on account of Nazi atrocities. {1}  Accordingly, if the applicant can provide proof that the moneys he receives are reparation payments for the treatment he received as a prisoner-of-war, they should be excluded in computing his income for purposes of section 467 of the RPTL.

October 16, 2007

{1}  The website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum includes information concerning such reparation programs.