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Volume 7 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 110

Opinions of Counsel index

Veterans exemption (seriously disabled veteran) (effect of L.1981, c.981) - Real Property Tax Law, § 458:

Subdivision 3 of section 458 of the Real Property Tax Law, as amended by Chapter 981 of the Laws of 1981, provides to certain seriously disabled veterans a total exemption from county, municipal and school taxes, if the veteran has received financial assistance from the Federal government and has used this assistance to acquire, as a primary residence, specially adapted housing required as a result of the veteran’s disability.

We have been questioned concerning the exemption available to seriously disabled veterans. Subdivision 3 of section 458 of the Real Property Tax Law, which provides a real property tax exemption to seriously disabled veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, was amended by Chapter 981 of the Laws of 1981. Prior to January 1, 1982 (the effective date of Chapter 981), certain seriously disabled veterans were eligible to receive an exemption from real property taxes, not to exceed $17,500 in assessed value (raised from $10,000 in 1973). This exemption could be added to the ($5,000 maximum) basic exemption provided for in section 458(1), making a possible exemption of assessed value of $22,500 from general municipal taxes and $17,500 from school taxes.

However, beginning with 1982 assessment rolls, seriously disabled veterans satisfying the statutory requirements of subdivision 3 of section 458 are totally exempt from county, municipal and school taxes, although they remain liable for special district charges. To be eligible for this total exemption, a seriously disabled wartime veteran must have received financial assistance from the United States government and must have applied this assistance toward the acquisition of specially adapted housing (often called “702 wheelchair houses”) and made necessary by the nature of the veteran’s disability. The Veterans Administration distributes this financial assistance in the form of a grant of up to $30,000 under chapter 21 of Title 38 of the U.S. Code (38 U.S.C. §§801 et seq.) to assist veterans who have suffered permanent and total service-connected disability.

In addition, a new provision has been added to subdivision 3 of section 458 requiring that the property be the veteran’s primary residence. If the assessor is uncertain whether the property is the veteran’s primary residence, he should contact the veteran. To determine if the property qualifies, the assessor should consider facts such as the length of time spent on the property, where the veteran votes, the nature and amount of personal property on the premises, and other conduct and behavior which demonstrates that the veteran considers the property to be his permanent home.

There are no required application forms for this exemption. If the veteran has received the section 458, subdivision 3 exemption in the past, the assessor should assume that the veteran has received and applied the funds toward the acquisition of specially adapted housing, and convert the exemption to a total exemption, provided the property is the veteran’s primary residence. However, if the veteran has never received this exemption in the past, the assessor may require the veteran to demonstrate that all of the requirements of subdivision 3 are satisfied and to submit the necessary documentation from the Veterans Administration.

In summary, certain seriously disabled veterans are now totally exempt from real property taxation of their primary residence, if they have received financial assistance from the Veterans Administration and applied such assistance toward the acquisition of specially adapted housing.

March 25, 1982

Updated: