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Volume 7 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 35

Opinions of Counsel index

Agricultural exemption (mathematical error in calculation); Correction of errors (clerical error) (computation of agricultural value ceiling) (error in preceding or current year) - Agriculture and Markets Law, Article 25AA; Real Property Tax Law, §§ 550, 553:

Where the correct figures for acreage and per acre ceiling value are on the assessor’s work product but an error occurs in the computation of an agricultural value ceiling there has been a “clerical error”, as defined in section 550 of the Real Property Tax Law.

A clerical error on the assessment roll for either the current or preceding year which has resulted in an assessed valuation which is less than that actually appearing upon the final work product of the assessor may be corrected on the final assessment roll of the current year pursuant to section 553 of the Real Property Tax Law.

We have received an inquiry concerning the applicability of the administrative procedures for the correction of errors on assessment rolls and tax rolls to errors made in the assessments of several parcels of real property subject to agricultural value ceilings.

Article 25AA of the Agriculture and Markets Law provides for assessment value ceilings for qualifying agricultural lands. These values are indicative of value for agricultural purposes. To the extent that the standard market value assessment is greater than the assessment ceiling placed on qualifying land, the difference is treated as a partial exemption (see, 9 NYCRR 194.11).

In this instance, several mathematical errors (viz., failure to multiply and add correctly) were made in the computation of the ceilings and as a result, the exempt values were greater than warranted and the taxes levied against these properties were less than they should have been. The question is whether these types of errors are correctible under title 3 of Article 5 of the Real Property Tax Law.

The errors made in the computation of the assessment ceilings were all of a mathematical nature. As such, each was a “clerical error” within the meaning of paragraph (b) of subdivision 2 of section 550 of the Real Property Tax Law, to wit: “an entry which is a mathematical error present in the computation of a partial exemption”.

In the year in which such an error occurs, it is correctible upon the petition of the assessor prior to grievance day (§552(2)) or, after the filing of the final assessment roll, prior to the “second meeting” of the board of assessment review (§553(2)). Thereafter, a correction in that year may be made only upon application by the taxpayer (§554(2)).

However, the errors may be correctible on the succeeding year’s final assessment roll. When a “clerical error” for the current or preceding year has resulted in an assessment which is less than that which appears on the “final work product of the assessor”, paragraph (a) of subdivision (1) of section 553 authorizes the assessor to petition the board of assessment review to order a correction of the current assessment roll to enter for tax purposes an amount equal to the difference between the assessed value as it appeared on the assessment roll for the preceding year and the greater amount that appeared on the work product of the assessor. A tax will then be levied against that amount at the tax rate of the preceding year (§553(4)(a)(1)).

As previously stated, a mathematical error in the computation of a partial exemption is a “clerical error”.  It is our opinion that where the correct figures for acreage and per acre ceiling value appear on the assessor’s work product and the only error present in the computation of an agricultural value ceiling is purely mathematical, then it is a “clerical error” as defined in section 550(2)(b), and correctible under the provisions of section 553.

July 28, 1980

Updated: