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Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 64

Opinions of Counsel index

Religious corporations exemption (residence of clergyman) (limits of exemption) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 462, 490:

Real property owned by a religious corporation and used as a full-time residence by its clergyman is exempt from charges imposed by or on behalf of a county, city, town, village or school district for municipal or school district purposes. Such property is, however, subject to ad valorem levy and special assessment charges.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the limits of the exemption from real property taxation accorded real property owned by a religious corporation and used as a full-time residence by its minister.

Section 462 of the Real Property Tax Law provides as follows:

§ 462. Religious corporations; property used for residential purposes.

In addition to the exemption provided in section four hundred twenty of this chapter, property owned by a religious corporation while actually used by the officiating clergymen thereof for residential purposes shall be exempt from taxation.

For clarification of the phrase “exempt from taxation”, subdivision 20 of section 102 of the Real Property Tax Law, provides, in part, as follows:

“Tax” or “taxation” means a charge imposed upon real property by or on behalf of a county, city, town, village or school district for municipal or school district purposes, but does not include a special ad valorem levy or a special assessment . . . (emphasis supplied)

Special ad valorem levies and special assessments are not included within the word “taxation” as used in section 462. Furthermore, section 490 of the Real Property Tax Law provides certain exemptions from special ad valorem levies and special assessments to real property entitled to an exemption under specific sections. Section 462 is not one of those sections specified in section 490.

The State Comptroller (24 Op.State Compt. 291) has held that “property owned by a duly recognized religious corporation situated in a village and town other than the village and town in which the religious corporation has its church, and which is actually being used as a residence by its clergy . . . is exempt from taxation irrespective of its situs.” The State Comptroller has also held, however, that “a dwelling owned by a church and occupied exclusively by the officiating clergyman and his family . . . is entitled to an exemption . . . from taxes but not from assessments for benefits or improvement district purposes” (6 Op. State Compt. 82).

There is ample statutory and administrative authority to conclude, therefore, that the phrase “exempt from taxation”, in the context of the real property tax exemption granted by section 462 of the Real Property Tax Law, does not include special ad valorem levies and special assessments, and the property is, therefore, subject to such charges.

February 19, 1974

Updated: