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Volume 6 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 28

Opinions of Counsel index

Taxes (bills) (failure to receive statement) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 922,942:

A property owner is not relieved of the responsibility for payment of taxes despite the fact that her name was not properly entered on the tax roll and no statement of taxes was received by her.

A property owner asks for an “adjustment” in her 1976 school tax bill and 1977 county/town tax bill to eliminate penalties and interest which have accrued because of nonpayment. She never received either tax bill since her name was not entered on the tax rolls in question although she had been paying her taxes regularly in years past.

Unfortunately, there is no provision of law which would permit a waiver of penalties and interest arising out of a failure to make timely payment of tax bills. Furthermore, the fact that she failed to receive a statement of taxes due does not in any way affect her liability for taxes levied (Real Property Tax Law, § 922).

In general, non-city school districts levy their taxes on or before September 1 each year, and for the next 30 days property owners therein may pay their taxes interest-free. Thereafter, interest is payable at the rate of one percent for each month (or fraction thereof) for which taxes are unpaid. On or before November 15, the list of unpaid taxes is delivered to the county treasurer. Those taxes and interest are then payable to the treasurer (with a 5 percent charge added) until such time as the county board of supervisors orders the tax relevied.

Once the relevy has occurred (i.e., the school taxes are “levied” again with the county/town tax levy), a 7 percent charge is imposed. For 30 days, property owners may pay their county/town tax bills interest-free, although this interest-free period does not apply to relevied school taxes. That is, the property owner must also pay school taxes plus interest and penalties which have accrued thereon.

After the expiration of the 30 day interest-free period, interest and penalties accrue against any unpaid county/town tax levies (as well as continuing against unpaid school taxes). A county treasurer has no authority to waive the collection of penalties and interest, whatever the reason for failure to pay (Real Property Tax Law, § 942). This is true even if the assessment or tax roll does not correctly reflect the true owner of the real property subject to the tax (see, 25 Op.State Compt. 261).

Whether the property owner’s name was properly entered on the tax roll, the fact that she received no statement of taxes does not relieve her of the responsibility for payment of taxes. Subdivision 1 of section 922 of the Real Property Tax Law requires the collecting officer,

Upon receipt of the tax roll and warrant, . . . [to] mail to each owner of real property listed thereon a statement showing the amount of taxes due on his property . . . .

However, subdivision 3 of this same section further provides that:

The failure to mail any such statement, or the failure of any such owner to receive the same, shall not in any way affect the validity of the taxes or interest prescribed by law with respect thereto. (emphasis added)

June 29, 1977