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Volume 5 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 78

Opinions of Counsel index

Incorporated volunteer fire company exemption (leased premises) (United States Army Reserve) - Real Property Tax Law, § 464:

Real property owned by an incorporated volunteer fire company or fire department, otherwise exempt from taxation pursuant to section 464 of the Real Property Tax Law, is taxable when it is leased to a United States Army Reserve unit. Where only a portion of such property is leased to the reserve unit, that portion will be taxable while the remainder will be entitled to the exemption.

We have received an inquiry concerning the taxable status of property owned by an incorporated volunteer fire department which furnishes fire protection to a district. The property is rented to a United States Army Reserve unit for evening and weekend use.

Section 464 of the Real Property Tax Law provides an exemption for certain real property owned by an incorporated volunteer fire company or fire department. Under the provisions of subdivision 2 of section 464, where real property is owned by an incorporated volunteer fire company or fire department, created for the purpose of furnishing fire protection, and is actually used and occupied by it for public purposes, or is leased to a city, town, village, or fire or school district in which the property is located for governmental purposes, the property is exempt from taxation.

However, the lease or rental of fire company property to either the State or Federal Government is not authorized by section 464 for purposes of continuation of exemption. The facts indicate that the property is rented to a United States Army Reserve unit. We assume for purposes of this inquiry, that this is the reserve component of the United States Army and, as such, is a Federal entity, as opposed to a State National Guard unit. In either case, the property involved would be subject to taxation since it is leased to an organization which is not listed under subdivision 2 of section 464 as a qualified entity for continuation of the exemption.

Finally, it is to be noted that the State Comptroller has held that a “tax exemption may be applied to the unleased portion of a building owned by a village volunteer fire department where the tenant of the leased portion does not qualify, under the statute, to create a total exemption for the building or premises” (23 Op.State Compt. 889). This would apply as well to fire companies outside of villages, which also come under the provisions of section 464.

May 11, 1976

Updated: