Volume 7 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 73
Correction of errors (tax roll) (applicant) - Real Property Tax Law, § 554:
An application for correction of an error on a tax roll (Form EA-554) should be filed by the owner of the real property or his duly authorized agent.
An assessor may not file an application for correction of an error in an assessment on a tax roll for the purpose of increasing the assessment of any real property.
We have been asked whether it is appropriate for an assessor to file an application (Form EA-554) for correction of an assessment on the tax roll pursuant to section 554 of the Real Property Tax Law. Subdivision 2 of section 554 provides as follows:
Whenever it appears to an owner of real property, or any person who would be entitled to file a complaint pursuant to [§ 512] of this chapter . . . such owner or other person, may . . . file an application . . . for the correction of such error.
Section 512 of the Real Property Tax Law refers to the filing of complaints with the board of assessment review on or before grievance day. Subdivision 1 of this section provides that a complainant must file a written statement with the assessor or the board of assessment review “which statement must be made by the person whose property is assessed, or by some person authorized in writing by the complainant or his officer or agent to make such statement who has knowledge of the facts stated therein.”
It should be apparent from the foregoing language that the applicants contemplated in section 554 of the Real Property Tax Law would only include the owner of the real property incorrectly assessed and his duly authorized officer or agent. (By “duly authorized”, we mean a person specifically authorized in writing to file such complaint).
Because of the time limitations of section 554 (such an application must be filed prior to the expiration of the warrant for the collection of the tax; see, § 554(2)), we have occasionally advised county directors and assessors that with respect to applications for reduced assessments, the assessor may file an application on behalf of a property owner who could not be notified and file an application prior to the expiration of the warrant. This is an unusual circumstance, however.
It is clear, however, that an assessor may not file a Form EA-554 for the purpose of increasing the assessment of any real property. While it may be that a property owner could make such application - though this would be a highly unusual occurrence - the demands of due process (N.Y. Const., Art. 1, § 6) would bar the assessor from unilaterally increasing an assessment once the tax roll has been prepared (cf., People ex rel. Simpson v. Wells, 181 N.Y. 252, 73 N.E. 1025 (1905)). The primary elements of due process of law include notice and opportunity to be heard (see generally, 9 N.Y. Jur., Constitutional Law, §§ 337, 343 (1960)). The procedures for correction of errors under section 554 do not include any notice and hearing requirements.
In contrast, for purposes of assessments on the tentative roll, the assessor is required to give a general notice by publication (§ 506(1)) and the property owner has the opportunity to be heard before the board of assessment review (§§ 512, 1524). Similarly, an assessor’s petition for correction of an assessment on a final assessment roll (§ 553), for the purpose of increasing that assessment, requires notice by certified mail (§ 553(2)(b)) and the opportunity to be heard before the board of assessment review (§ 553(3)(b)).
December 17, 1980