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Volume 8 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 98

Opinions of Counsel index

Alternative veterans exemption (member of exempt class) (veteran also the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran) - Real Property Tax Law, § 458-a:

A veteran who is also the unremarried surviving spouse of another veteran may receive but one alternative veterans exemption.

In regard to the alternative veterans exemption (RPTL, §458-a), we have been asked whether a veteran who is also the unremarried surviving spouse of another veteran may receive two veterans exemption.

The alternative veterans exemption is available to “qualifying residential real property” which is “property owned by a qualified owner which is used exclusively for residential purposes” (RPTL, §458-a(l)(d)). A “qualified owner” is defined as “a veteran, the spouse of a veteran, or the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran” (§458-a(l)(c)). As such, where two or more veterans jointly own real property, each veteran is a “qualified owner” within the meaning of the statute and is entitled to receive the alternative veterans exemption on his or her interest therein. Accordingly, we have said that where property is jointly owned by two veterans, such as a husband and wife, each of whom is entitled to receive an alternative veterans exemption, the two exemptions may be combined. Naturally, even where each veteran served in a combat zone and may be the recipient of a 100% service connected disability rating (which would otherwise entitle each veteran to receive a 75% exemption), the combined exemption may not exceed 100%.

Following the death of one joint-owner spouse, however, the property is owned by a single “qualified owner” as that term is defined in the statute. The fact that the owner could qualify for exemption under either status (veteran or unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran) does not alter the fact of individual ownership. Accordingly, we believe that a veteran who is also the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran may receive only a single alternative veterans exemption.

The veteran, however, may elect to receive the exemption under the status which provides him or her with the greater benefit. For example, assume a veteran eligible for a 15% alternative veterans exemption based on his own military service is also the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran who would have been eligible for a 25% alternative exemption. The veteran may elect to receive the exemption as the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran, thereby receiving the larger percentage of exemption based upon his deceased spouse’s military service. However, if the veteran receives the alternative exemption as the unremarried surviving spouse of a veteran and remarries, he will no longer qualify for the exemption under that status.

March 31, 1986

NOTE: This Opinion is superseded by L.1988, c.100. 

Updated: