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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 14

Opinions of Counsel index

Forest and reforested lands exemption (effective date) (delay) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 480, 480-a:

A property owner who applied to have forest lands classified under section 480 of the Real Property Tax Law prior to September 1, 1974, is entitled to have such lands so classified on the 1975 assessment roll notwithstanding the fact that he may have elected to make application for certification pursuant to section 480-a, the effective date of which has been delayed.

We have received an inquiry concerning the assessment for taxation purposes of real property consisting of forest lands.

An application for classification of the lands under Real Property Tax Law, section 480 (i.e., Fisher Act), was approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation on July 25, 1974. In addition an application was filed for certification under Real Property Tax Law, section 480-a, receiving approval thereunder on March 11, 1975. The applicant notes that by legislative act (L.1975, c.68) the effective date of the provisions of section 480-a have been postponed to July 1, 1976, and he requests our opinion as to whether his lands may be classified under section 480 on the 1975 assessment roll.

Chapter 814 of the Laws of 1974 added a new section 480-a to the Real Property Tax Law (effective September 1, 1974), which, from that date, became the exclusive authority for new approvals for preferential assessment of land committed to forest crop production. Chapter 814 also amended Real Property Tax Law, section 480 (Fisher Act) to provide that no lands may be classified thereunder subsequent to September 1, 1974, and that the owner of lands classified under section 480 prior to September 1, 1974 may elect to continue to have such lands so classified or he may elect to make application for certification pursuant to new section 480-a. As indicated, Chapter 68 of the Laws of 1975, signed by the Governor on May 6, 1975, adds a new subdivision 8 to section 480-a which provides that section 480-a shall only be applicable to assessment rolls with taxable status dates occurring on or after July 1, 1976. Bill section 2 of Chapter 68 also provides that the chapter took effect immediately upon approval by the Governor, when signed on May 6, and the provisions of subdivision 8 added by the act, were made retroactive to and deemed to be in full force and effect from and after September 1, 1974.

Accordingly, in our opinion, the effect of Chapter 68 of the Laws of 1975 is to delay the effect of any applications filed under section 480-a to assessment rolls based on a taxable status date occurring on or after July 1, 1976. Therefore, a property owner who applied to have lands classified under section 480 prior to September 1, 1974, and assuming the lands continue to meet the requirements of section 480, is entitled to have such lands so classified on the 1975 town assessment roll notwithstanding the fact that he may have elected to make application for certification pursuant to section 480-a, which as discussed above, has been delayed.

June 11, 1975

NOTE: Chapter 422 of the Laws of 1976 further delays the implementation of section 480-a to July 1, 1977.

Updated: