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Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 112

Opinions of Counsel index

Clergymen’s exemption (scope and computation) (reduction of assessed valuation) - Real Property Tax Law, § 460:

The $1,500 exemption granted by section 460 of the Real Property Tax Law is to be applied against the assessment of the clergyman’s real property, and not as a reduction of his tax bill.

We have received an inquiry regarding the partial exemption from real property taxation granted to clergymen (Real Property Tax Law, § 460) as to whether the $1,500 exemption granted to a clergyman is to be applied to the assessment of his real property, or if it may be applied directly to his tax bill.

Section 460 provides as follows:

Real property owned by a minister of the gospel, priest or rabbi of any denomination, an actual resident and inhabitant of this state, who is engaged in the work assigned to him by the church or denomination of which he is a member, or who is unable to perform such work due to impaired health, or is over seventy years of age, and real property owned by his unremarried widow while she is an actual resident and inhabitant of this state, shall be exempt from taxation to the extent of fifteen hundred dollars.

The term “taxation” as it is used in section 460 is defined in subdivision 20 of section 102. As stated therein, such term does not include special ad valorem levies or special assessments. Pursuant to subdivision 5 of section 502, the assessor, in preparing the assessment roll, is to list all real property, which is partially exempt, on the list of taxable property with the amount of exemption shown in a separate column. The partial exemptions referred to in this section are generally contained in Article 4 of the Real Property Tax Law (e.g. § 460).

The method by which the clergymen’s exemption is calculated was alluded to in the case of Dubois v. Parcells, 118 N.Y.S. 615, where it is stated that, “It is the contention of the plaintiff that the assessors had no jurisdiction over the property of the plaintiff, he being assessed less than the amount allowed by statute . . .” (emphasis added).

Of a more definitive nature is an opinion of the State Comptroller (18 Op.State Compt. 403) where it is stated:

. . . Statement of law:

Section 460 provides that real property owned by a minister of the gospel, priest or rabbi shall be exempt from taxation to the extent of $1,500. This exemption is granted to a minister by subtracting $1,500 from the assessed valuation of a parcel owned by him. Taxes are then levied upon the balance of the valuation remaining, if any. (emphasis added)

The clergyman’s exemption has been a part of the Real Property Tax Law and its predecessor statutes for many years, and to our knowledge, has always been interpreted in the manner described in the Comptroller’s opinion. As the Court of Appeals has stated, “Where the practical construction of the statute is well known, the Legislature is charged with knowledge and its failure to interfere indicates acquiescence . . .” (Engle v. Talarico, 33 N.Y.2d 237, 306 N.E.2d 796, 351 N.Y.S.2d 677).

Accordingly, it remains our opinion that the exemption granted by section 460 is to be applied against the assessment of a clergyman’s real property.

April 29, 1975

Updated: