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Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 108

Opinions of Counsel index

Taxable status date (destruction of improvements) (school districts) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 302, 1302:

Any change in the condition of property following taxable status date, such as destruction by fire or demolition, would not affect the taxable status of the real property parcel for the ensuing fiscal year. The taxable status date of the city or town preparing the assessment roll to be used in levying school district taxes is controlling for school district purposes.

Our opinion has been requested as to the taxable status of real property existing on taxable status date but which, subsequent thereto and prior to the time taxes are to be levied, has been demolished or destroyed by fire.

Section 302 of the Real Property Tax Law provides that all real property shall be assessed in the city or town in which it is situated according to its condition and ownership as of taxable status date, May 1 annually. (In the counties of Erie, Monroe, Suffolk and Westchester pursuant to special acts of the Legislature taxable status date is June 1 annually.)

Accordingly, real property must be assessed according to its condition and ownership as of the applicable taxable status date. Any changes in either the condition or ownership occurring after taxable status date cannot be reflected until the next ensuing assessment roll is prepared. (One exception to this rule relating to transfers of formerly exempt property is provided by section 494 of the Real Property Tax Law which applies only to New York City and Westchester County.) Any change in the condition of the property following taxable status date, such as destruction by fire or demolition, would not affect the taxable status of the real property parcel for the ensuing fiscal year. The reason for this is to achieve a degree of stability and certainty in the tax structure, inasmuch as the budgetary requirements of local municipalities are predicated on the assessment roll. The taxable status date serves as a cutoff date to fix the value of all assessable real property as of one certain date and cannot be construed to embrace a shifting period.

This principle was applied as early as 1857 in the case of Mygatt v. Washburn (15 N.Y. 316, 320) where the court stated, with respect to a two-month period provided for ascertaining ownership, that “the assessment should be considered as made at the expiration of the time limited for making the inquiry, namely, on the first day of July.” Subsequent statutes have established a final date for the determination of condition and ownership and this taxable status date has been held to be conclusive with respect to these two elements (People ex rel. Twenty Third St. R. Co. v. Commissioners of Taxes and Assessments of City and County of New York, 91 N.Y. 593; People v. McDermott, 265 N.Y. 47, 191 N.E. 770; Beekwill Realty Corp. v. City of New York, 136 Misc. 757, 240 N.Y.S. 821).

With respect to school districts it should be noted that prior to amendment in 1968, section 1302 of the Real Property Tax Law provided an exception to the above rule in that the date and hour of confirmation or final adopting by the school authorities of the final assessment roll of a city or town was controlling for purposes of determining exemptions and the valuation of any improvement on real property which had been completely demolished or destroyed prior to the confirmation of the assessment roll by the school district authorities. The effect of the amendment (L. 1968, c. 901) was to delete this exception. Thus, as of the effective date of the amendment, July 1, 1968, the taxable status date of the locality preparing the assessment roll to be used in levying school district taxes is controlling for school district purposes.

December 18, 1974

Updated: