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Department of Taxation and Finance

Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 69

Opinions of Counsel index

Taxes (apportionment of, procedure) (Suffolk County) - Real Property Tax Law, § 932; Suffolk County Tax Act, § 29:

In Suffolk County, when an owner of a divided or undivided interest in land requests an apportionment of taxes, the town assessor is required to apportion the assessment into respective shares and certify the apportionment to the receiver of taxes after due notice to the parties affected.

We have received an inquiry concerning apportionment of taxes and procedures relating thereto in Suffolk County.

The statutory authority for apportionment of taxes is contained in the Real Property Tax Law, section 932, and with respect to Suffolk County in section 29 of the Suffolk County Tax Act. Section 29 of the Suffolk County Tax Act reads as follows:

Sec. 29  APPORTIONMENT OF TAXES. After the levy of any tax or assessment upon any lands or premises, any person or persons claiming any divided or undivided part thereof may pay such part of the tax or assessment and charge due thereon as the receiver of taxes shall determine to be the just and equitable proportion of the tax or assessment due thereon. The assessors of the town in which the said premises are situated shall apportion the assessed valuation of such lands and premises when requested by the receiver of taxes and shall certify the apportionment to him and the receiver of taxes shall base his determination upon the apportionment. The remainder of the tax, assessment and charge shall be a lien upon the residue of the lands and premises only. After the return of the warrant and tax and assessment roll to the county treasurer and before a sale for the taxes and assessments any tax or assessment returned unpaid may in like manner be apportioned by and paid to the county treasurer. After a sale for unpaid taxes and assessments and within the period fixed by law for redemption, the county treasurer may in like manner apportion the amount due upon any divided or undivided part of the premises, and thereafter the tax sale shall be of and affect only the remaining portion of said premises.

Accordingly, in Suffolk County a person claiming a divided or undivided part of any land or premises described and assessed on the town assessment or tax roll as one parcel who wishes to pay only the portion of taxes attributable to such part may, pursuant to statute, apply for an apportionment of the assessment. A town assessor is required to make such apportionment upon the request of the town receiver of taxes. The town assessor is further required to certify such apportionment to the receiver of taxes who then apportions the tax. Where a request for an apportionment is made after the return of the warrant, the county treasurer is authorized to apportion the tax. This procedure may be used at any time after the levy of taxes up to the time the period of redemption expires after sale of a real property parcel for unpaid taxes. Where an assessment is apportioned after the penalty free period for the payment of taxes expires, penalties will accrue.

This procedure relates to the collection process and does not authorize changes as such on the assessment roll used to levy the taxes which may be apportioned. It may be employed where, after taxable status date, a part of a parcel appearing on the assessment roll is transferred, or a part of a parcel is appropriated by the State or other political subdivision, or where property is jointly owned and one of the joint owners wishes to pay the portion of taxes attributable to his share of ownership. It should be noted that in some instances the immediate parties may contract between themselves to fix their responsibilities. If not, then the procedure set forth in the statute is available to them.

As noted above, the statute calls for an apportionment of the assessment. Thus, an assessor is only authorized to apportion an assessment into respective shares. This means that the assessed valuation of the property will be apportioned, but no change will be made in the total assessed valuation. In Suffolk County a town receiver of taxes or the county treasurer is then required to apportion the tax due on each portion and is authorized to received the proportionate amount of taxes and accrued penalties on the respective shares. When a request for an apportionment is made, the assessor should request such information or evidence as is necessary to establish how the assessment should be apportioned. Thus, the assessor may request the person seeking the apportionment to bring in a copy of the deed of conveyance or other instrument to establish the person’s interest in the property. While section 29 of the County Tax Act is silent with regard to notice to the immediate parties, Real Property Tax Law, section 932 requires that the apportionment of the assessment is to be made by the assessor after due notice to the parties affected. Thus, it would appear necessary that such notice be given by assessors in Suffolk County.

Section 29 of the County Tax Act requires that the town assessor certify the apportionment to the receiver of taxes. As a minimum, the certificate should contain the description of the complete parcel as it appears on the assessment roll together with the name of the owner and the land and total assessed value. This should be followed by a description of the apportionment which would include the name of the new owner or joint owner, the apportionment of the parcel by acreage, footage, or interest, and the apportioned assessed valuation ascribed to each share. Where tax maps have been prepared and are being maintained by the county real property tax service agency a copy of such certificate should be directed to that agency so that, if necessary, new tax map identification numbers may be assigned and the tax map updated for use in the preparation of the next town assessment roll.

December 10, 1973