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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 54

Opinions of Counsel index

Clergymen’s exemption (assigned work requirement) (administrative post) - Real Property Tax Law, § 460:

If a clergyman occupying an administrative post is “engaged in the work assigned to him by the church or denomination of which he is a member,” he may receive an exemption pursuant to section 460 of the Real Property Tax Law. It is not necessary that he be an officiating clergyman of a religious corporation in order to receive such exemption.

Our opinion has been requested concerning the eligibility for exemption of real property belonging to the Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of a city.

Section 462 provides that real property owned by a religious corporation while actually used by the officiating clergyman of such religious corporation for residential purposes shall be exempt from taxation. In the situation presented, however, the real property is not owned by a religious corporation, nor is the property owner the officiating clergyman of the religious corporation (i.e., a church). Consequently, the requirements of this statute are not met.

Section 460 of the Real Property Tax Law provides in relevant part as follows:

Real property owned by a minister of the gospel . . .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. . .shall be exempt from taxation to the extent of fifteen hundred dollars.

Unlike the aforementioned section 462, there is no requirement in section 460 that the applicant be an officiating clergyman of a religious corporation. Thus, the fact that the property owner does not preach on a regular basis is not determinative as to his right to receive an exemption pursuant to section 460. Rather, the key phrase is “engaged in the work assigned to him by the church or denomination of which he is a member.” For example, the Attorney General has held that a regularly ordained minister, priest or rabbi meeting all other requirements of the section, is entitled to the tax exemption if the work he is engaged in was assigned to him by the church or denomination of which he is a member even if such work may be teaching in a seminary (1970, Op.Atty.Gen. 48). The facts submitted do indicate that the applicant is an ordained minister. Thus, if he has been assigned to his administrative post by the Presbyterian Church, he is entitled to a $1,500 exemption.

January 9, 1976

Updated: