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Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 70

Opinions of Counsel index

Aged exemption (local authorization) (income) - Real Property Tax Law, § 467:

A granting municipality has no authority to set varying income limits for different classes of eligible persons or property, such as scaling the income limits to correspond with sole or joint ownership.

Our opinion has been requested as to whether a municipality which adopts the exemption authorized by section 467 of the Real Property Tax Law may set varying income limits for different classes of persons or property (i.e., provide that where property is solely owned the income of the owner may not exceed $3,000, and where property is jointly owned the combined income of all of the owners may not exceed $4,500).

In a previous opinion of this office (2 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 64) we stated that a county legislative body may not enact a local law which would vary the length of ownership requirements contained in section 467. The principle enunciated in that opinion, which is that a local law, ordinance or resolution adopting this exemption may not vary the terms of the statute authorizing the exemption, has equal application here.

Section 467 authorizes any municipality (i.e., county, city, town, village or school district) to enact a local law, ordinance or resolution granting a partial exemption from taxation by said municipal corporation on real property owned by persons sixty-five years of age or over meeting the qualifications enumerated within that section. With respect to the income limitation subdivision 3(a) provides in part:

3. No exemption shall be granted

(a) If the income of the owner or the combined income of the owners of the property for the income tax year immediately preceding the date of making application for exemption exceeds the sum of three thousand dollars, or such other sum not less than three thousand dollars nor more than six thousand dollars as may be provided by the local law, ordinance or resolution adopted pursuant to this section. . . . Where title is vested in either the husband or the wife, their combined income may not exceed such sum.

Thus, under section 467 a municipality has the authority by local action to grant a partial exemption which would apply to that class of persons and property enumerated within the general State statute, and in granting the exemption the municipality has the further option of setting an income limitation for otherwise qualified property owners as a class. There is no authority in section 467 for a municipality to set a scale of income limits to correspond with sole or joint ownership. Further, such action is inconsistent with express statutory language contained in section 467 requiring the reporting of the combined income of husband and wife where title is vested in either the husband or the wife. As noted above, a granting municipality has no authority to vary the terms of an exemption statute.

August 9, 1973

NOTE: Construes law prior to L.1992, c.145, which allowed the income of only one spouse to be considered under certain circumstances. Note also that the maximum income limitation has been repeatedly increased since this Opinion was issued.

Updated: