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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 49

Opinions of Counsel index

Tax maps (generally) (individual parcels) - Real Property Tax Law, § 1534:

A tax map is prepared for the use of the assessor, and is to be used primarily for real property assessment and taxation administration. The tax map identification number appearing thereon is used to describe individual parcels for such purposes, and not for conveyances except as is incidental to enforcement of tax collection.

We have received an inquiry from a taxpayer concerning the description of his real property as it appears on a tax map prepared and maintained by his county’s Real Property Tax Services Agency (Real Property Tax Law, § 1534). He is concerned that the dimensions of individual parcels appearing on the tax maps may not be wholly accurate and requests advice on the matter.

Subdivision 2 of section 502 of the Real Property Tax Law, which section prescribes the form of the assessment roll, provides that with respect to each separately assessed parcel, provisions shall be made for the entry of the name of the owner and “a description sufficient to identify the same, including the surnames of the abutting property owners and the names of the abutting streets or highways, the approximate number of square feet, square rods or acres contained therein or a statement of the linear dimensions thereof.” The subdivision further provides that when a tax map is approved by the State Board, a description of the property by reference to the tax map number designation is sufficient in describing the property for the purposes of that section, namely; to identify real property parcels on an assessment roll for taxation purposes.

The law provides that a tax map is prepared for the use of assessors, Therefore, a tax map is to be used primarily for real property assessment and taxation administration. The tax map identification number appearing thereon is to be used to provide a description to sufficiently identify the property and is intended to be used only to describe the parcel for the purposes of assessment, levy and enforcement of collection of taxes. The tax map or the tax map parcel number is not to be used to describe the real property for conveyance, except as may be incidental to enforcement of collection of taxes by a municipality.

One of the beginning steps in a tax mapping program is to take aerial photographs to obtain an accurate base manuscript to be used to plot individual real property parcels. This method is utilized because for a county to provide land surveys in a tax mapping program is economically unfeasible. Therefore, in plotting individual parcels on the tax map, the best documentary evidence available to a mapper is utilized. Such documentary evidence generally includes descriptions obtained from recorded deed information, subdivision maps, survey maps or other available pertinent documents.

The purpose of a tax map is to assist the assessor in making a complete listing of all property subject to taxation and to present to him a visual delineation of the characteristics of the property such as size, shape, exposure and location in relation to other properties and landmarks. In preparing a tax map, oftentimes it is discovered that properties may not have appeared on earlier assessment rolls. Questions may also arise with respect to actual acreage and boundary lines. Where such questions arise, attempts should be made by the County Real Property Tax Services Agency and the assessor to resolve ambiguities. In doing so, the best available documentary evidence is generally utilized and the property owner or owners should be notified and consulted. However, it is to be noted that the county director and assessor do not have the authority to determine the property rights of individuals. In the event that there is a dispute as to the accuracy of a deed, the amount of acreage, or boundary lines between adjacent property owners, such matters can only be resolved by and between the affected parties (4 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 11).

December 16, 1975

Updated: