Legislation

Search OpenLegislation Statutes
This entry was published on 2014-09-22
The selection dates indicate all change milestones for the entire volume, not just the location being viewed. Specifying a milestone date will retrieve the most recent version of the location before that date.
SECTION 480-A
Taxation of forest land
Real Property Tax (RPT) CHAPTER 50-A, ARTICLE 4, TITLE 2
§ 480-a. Taxation of forest land. 1. As used in this section:

(a) "Approved management plan" shall mean:

(i) a plan approved by the department for the management of an
eligible tract which shall contain requirements and standards to ensure
the continuing production of a merchantable forest crop selected by the
owner. Every approved management plan shall set forth requirements and
standards relating to stocking, cutting, forest management access, and
any specified use of the eligible tract other than for the production of
a merchantable forest crop which is desired by the owner and compatible
with or supportive of the continuing production of a merchantable forest
crop. Such plan shall include provisions accommodating endangered and
threatened animals and plants. Such plan must be prepared by or under
the direct supervision of a forester who may be the owner or an agent of
the owner, including an industrial forester or a cooperating consultant
forester; or

(ii) participation in a forest certification program (such as Forest
Stewardship Council certification, Sustainable Forestry Initiative;
American Tree Farm Program, etc.) recognized in the regulations of the
department.

(b) "Commitment" shall mean a declaration to the department made on an
annual basis by the owner of a certified eligible tract committing such
tract to continued forest crop production for the next succeeding ten
years under an approved management plan.

(c) "Cooperating consultant forester" shall mean a qualified forester
who, or a qualified forestry consultant firm which, has entered into an
agreement with the department under the New York state cooperating
consultant foresters program pursuant to section 9-0713 of the
environmental conservation law.

(d) "Department" shall mean the department of environmental
conservation.

(e) "Eligible tract" shall mean a tract of privately owned forest land
of at least fifty contiguous acres, exclusive of any portion thereof not
devoted to the production of forest crops. Lands divided by federal,
state, county or town roads, easements or rights-of-way, or energy
transmission corridors or similar facilities will be considered
contiguous for purposes of this section, unless vehicular access for
forest management purposes is precluded. Lands from which a merchantable
forest crop has been cut or removed within three years prior to the time
of application for certification under this section will be ineligible
unless such cutting or removal was accomplished under a forest
management program designed to provide for the continuing production of
merchantable forest crops.

(f) "Forest land" shall mean land exclusively devoted to and suitable
for forest crop production through natural regeneration or through
forestation and shall be stocked with a stand of forest trees sufficient
to produce a merchantable forest crop within thirty years of the time of
original certification.

(g) "Merchantable forest crop" shall mean timber or pulpwood,
including veneer bolts, sawlogs, poles, posts and fuelwood, that is
produced on forest land, has a value in the market and may be sold.

(h) "Stumpage value" shall mean the current market worth of a
merchantable forest crop as it stands at the time of sale, cutting,
required cutting or removal.

2. (a) An owner of an eligible tract may make application to the
department for certification under this section on forms prescribed by
the department. If the department finds that such tract is an eligible
tract it shall forward a certificate of approval to the owner thereof,
together with the approved management plan, and a copy of a commitment
certified by the department for the eligible tract.

(b) The department shall, after public hearings, adopt and promulgate
rules and regulations necessary for the implementation of the
department's responsibilities pursuant to this section. Such regulations
relating to approved management plans or amendments thereto may provide
for alternative or contingent requirements and standards based on the
size and nature of the tract and other criteria consistent with
environmentally and economically sound silvicultural practices.

(c) Any tract certified pursuant hereto shall be subject to the
provisions of this section. The obligations of this section shall
devolve upon and the benefits inure to the owner, his heirs, successors
and assigns.

3. (a) To qualify for a forest land exemption under this section the
owner of a certified eligible tract shall:

(i) file the certificate of approval in the office of the clerk of the
county or counties in which such tract is situated. Such certificate
shall specify that the tract described therein is committed to continued
forest crop production for an initial period of ten years. Upon receipt
of such certificate, the county clerk shall record the same in the books
kept for the recording of deeds and shall index the same in the deed
index against the name of the owner of the property. Until notice of
revocation of the certificate of approval has been recorded and indexed
as provided in subdivision seven or eight of this section, a certificate
that has been recorded and indexed pursuant to this subdivision shall
give notice that the certified tract is subject to the provisions of
this section; and

(ii) prior to the taxable status date for the first assessment roll
upon which such exemption is sought, file an initial application for
exemption with the appropriate assessor on forms prescribed by the
commissioner. Such application must be accompanied by a certified
commitment issued by the department pursuant to subdivision two of this
section; and

(iii) prior to the taxable status date for each subsequent assessment
roll upon which such exemption is sought, file with the appropriate
assessor a certified commitment of such tract to continued forest crop
production for the next succeeding ten years under the approved
management plan. Application for such commitment shall be made by the
owner of such tract to the department, and the commitment shall be
certified by the department.

(b) If the assessor is satisfied that the requirements of this section
are met, he or she shall approve the application and such eligible tract
shall be exempt from taxation pursuant to subdivision four of this
section to be effective as of the first taxable status date occurring
subsequent to such approval, and shall continue to be so exempt
thereafter upon receipt by the assessor of a certified commitment filed
in accordance with subparagraph (iii) of paragraph (a) of this
subdivision and so long as the certification of the eligible tract shall
not be revoked by the department.

(c) Failure on the part of the owner to file the certified commitment
in any year following initial certification will result in the
termination of the forest land exemption under this section, if any,
applicable to the property for that and succeeding taxable years for
which no such commitments are filed. Failure to file a commitment will
not constitute a conversion of the tract or breach of the approved
management plan, pursuant to subdivision seven hereof, and the
commitment of the property to forest crop production under the approved
management plan shall remain in force for the next succeeding nine years
following the last taxable year for which a certified commitment was
filed.

(d) Following failure to file a certified commitment in one or more
years, in order to obtain a forest land exemption under this section, an
owner of a certified tract may submit a certified commitment to the
assessor before the taxable status date in any subsequent year, except
that a new application under paragraph (a) of subdivision two of this
section and subparagraph (i) of paragraph (a) of this subdivision also
shall be required if more than five years have elapsed since the owner's
last certified commitment was filed. Such new application also shall be
required whenever, during the preceding year, the approved management
plan has been amended with respect to the acreage or location of forest
land committed to forest crop production under this section.

4. (a) Certified eligible tracts approved for exemption under this
section shall be exempt from taxation to the extent of eighty per centum
of the assessed valuation thereof, or to the extent that the assessed
valuation exceeds the amount resulting from multiplying the latest state
equalization rate or, where a special equalization rate has been
established pursuant to section twelve hundred twenty-four of this
chapter for the purposes of this section, the special equalization rate
by forty dollars per acre, whichever is the lesser.

(b) The assessed value of the exemption, if any, granted pursuant to
this section shall be entered by the assessor on the assessment roll in
such manner as shall be prescribed by the commissioner.

(c) Where a special equalization rate has been established by the
commissioner pursuant to section twelve hundred twenty-four of this
chapter, the assessor is directed and authorized to recompute the forest
land exemption on the assessment roll by applying such special
equalization rate instead of the latest state equalization rate in
computing the forest land exemption, and to make the appropriate
corrections on the assessment roll, subject to the provisions of title
two of article twelve of this chapter. Upon completion of the final
assessment roll or, where a special equalization rate has been
established, upon recomputation of the forest land exemption, the
assessor shall certify to the department each exemption granted pursuant
to this section in a manner prescribed by the commissioner.

5. (a) Whenever any cutting of the merchantable forest crop on any
certified eligible tract is proposed during the period of commitment
pursuant to subdivision three of this section, the owner shall give not
less than thirty days' notice to the department in a manner and upon
such form as may be prescribed by the department. Such notice shall
include information as to the stumpage value, amount and location of
such cutting. The department shall, within fifteen days after receipt of
such notice from the owner, certify the stumpage value, if any, to the
owner and to the county treasurer of the county or counties in which the
tract is situated. No later than thirty days after receipt of such
certification of value, the owner shall pay a six percentum tax on the
certified stumpage value of the merchantable forest crop to such county
treasurer.

(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (a) of this
subdivision, if the stumpage value of a merchantable forest crop will be
determined with reference to a scale to be conducted after the
commencement of the proposed cutting, the owner may elect to be taxed in
accordance with this paragraph. Such election shall be made not less
than thirty days in advance of commencement of the cutting, in such
manner and upon such form as may be prescribed by the department. Such
notice shall include information as to the estimated volume, scaling
method, and the schedule and length of the cutting period, not to exceed
one year. If a proper election has been made in accordance with this
paragraph, the department shall so notify the owner before any cutting
takes place on the eligible tract, and it shall certify the scaled
stumpage value to the owner of the tract and to the county treasurer of
the county or counties when the cutting has concluded. No later than
thirty days after the receipt of such certification of value, the owner
shall pay a six per centum tax on the stumpage value of the merchantable
forest crop to such county treasurer.

(c) In the event that a tax required by this subdivision or by
subdivision six of this section shall not be timely paid, it shall be
levied and collected, together with any penalty or penalties determined
pursuant to subdivision seven of this section, in the same manner and at
the same time as other taxes imposed and levied on the next completed
tax roll of such county or counties.

(d) Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subdivision and
the provisions of subdivision six of this section, the owner of any land
certified under this section may make all intermediate noncommercial
cuttings, as prescribed in the approved management plan, and may
annually cut, in accordance with sound forestry practices, ten standard
cords or the equivalent for such owner's own use, without notice and
free of tax imposed by this section.

6. (a) The department may serve notice upon the owner of a certified
tract directing such owner to make a cutting as prescribed in the
approved management plan for such tract. Should such cutting involve the
sale or utilization of a merchantable forest crop, not less than thirty
days in advance of cutting the owner shall give notice to the department
of the stumpage value, amount and location of the cutting on a form
prescribed by the department. The department shall within fifteen days
after receipt of such notice from the owner, certify the stumpage value,
if any, to the owner and to the county treasurer of the county or
counties in which such tract is situated. No later than thirty days
after receipt of such certification of value, the owner shall pay a six
per centum tax on the certified stumpage value to such county treasurer.

(b) Any cutting of a merchantable forest crop under this subdivision
must be conducted within two years from the date of service of the
notice upon the owner issued by the department. Upon failure of the
owner within such period to conduct such cutting, the department shall
certify to the owner and the county treasurer of the county or counties
the stumpage value of such merchantable forest crop. No later than
thirty days after receipt of such certification of value, the owner
shall pay a six per centum tax on the certified stumpage value to such
county treasurer.

(c) Any noncommercial cutting under this subdivision must be conducted
within one year from the date of service of the notice upon the owner
issued by the department.

(d) If such owner, within the period prescribed by this subdivision,
makes such cuttings as directed by the department, the tract shall
continue to be certified as long as the owner shall continue to comply
with the provisions of this section and manage the same in the manner
prescribed in the approved management plan for such tract.

7. (a) The department shall, after notice and hearing, issue a notice
of violation of this section for any certified tract whenever it finds
that:

(i) any tract or portion thereof is converted to a use which precludes
management of the land for forest crop production; or

(ii) the owner fails to give notice of a proposed cutting on such
tract or fails to timely pay the appropriate tax on the stumpage value
of the merchantable forest crop determined pursuant to subdivision five
or six of this section; or

(iii) the owner fails to comply with the approved management plan for
such tract at any time during the commitment period; or

(iv) the owner fails to make a timely cutting in accordance with the
provisions of subdivision six of this section after service of notice by
the department to make such a cutting.

(b) Notwithstanding the finding of an occurrence described by
subparagraph (ii), (iii) or (iv) of paragraph (a) of this subdivision,
the department, upon prior notice to the appropriate assessor, may
determine that a violation has not occurred if the failure to comply was
due to reasons beyond the control of the owner and such failure can be
corrected forthwith without significant effect on the overall purpose of
the management plan.

(c) The owner of such tract, following the issuance of such notice by
the department for one or more of the reasons set forth in paragraph (a)
of this subdivision, shall be subject to a penalty as provided in
paragraph (d) or (e) of this subdivision, whichever applies. Penalties
imposed by this section shall be subject to interest charges at the rate
established pursuant to section nine hundred twenty-four-a of this
chapter for each applicable year or, for years prior to nineteen hundred
eighty-four, at a rate of six per centum per annum compounded. Such
interest shall accrue in the year with reference to which a penalty, or
portion thereof, is attributed.

(d) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (e) of this subdivision,
the penalty imposed under paragraph (c) of this subdivision shall be
computed by multiplying by two and one-half the amount of taxes that
would have been levied on the forest land exemption entered on the
assessment roll pursuant to subdivision four of this section for the
current year and any prior years in which such an exemption was granted,
utilizing the applicable tax rate for the current year and for such
prior years, not to exceed a total of ten years.

(e) The penalty imposed under paragraph (c) of this subdivision
applicable to converted land which constitutes only a portion of a
certified eligible tract shall be twice the amount determined under
paragraph (d) of this subdivision. In calculating such penalty, only
that portion of the tract that was actually converted to a use that
precludes management of the land for forest crop production shall be
used as the basis for determining the penalty.

(f) A notice of violation issued under this subdivision shall be given
by the department to the owner and to the county treasurer of the county
or counties in which such tract is located, and the penalty and interest
charges shall be computed for each of the municipal corporations in
which such tract is located by such county treasurer. Upon completion of
the computation of the penalty and interest, the county treasurer shall
give notice to the owner of the amount of the penalty and interest, and
the amount shall be entered on the next completed tax roll of such
county or counties. Such penalties and interest shall be levied and
collected in the same manner and at the same time as other taxes are
imposed and levied on such roll. Upon collection of such penalties and
interest, such county treasurer shall pay the amounts due to each of the
appropriate municipal corporations.

(g) Upon receipt of proof satisfactory to the department that all
penalties, stumpage taxes and interest imposed by this section have been
fully paid or satisfied, the department shall revoke the certificate of
approval issued pursuant to subdivision two of this section, and notice
of such revocation shall be given to the owner and to the county clerk
of the county or counties in which the tract is located. Upon receipt of
such notice of revocation, the county clerk shall record the same in the
books kept for the recording of deeds and shall index the same in the
deed index against the name of the owner of the property. The county
clerk shall also note on the face of the last certificate of approval or
certified commitment previously recorded pursuant to this section the
word "REVOKED" followed by a reference to the liber and page where the
notice of revocation is recorded pursuant to this subdivision.

(h) The certificate of approval of a certified tract for which no
notice of violation has been issued shall be revoked without penalty
upon receipt of proof satisfactory to the department that nine years
have passed from the year of the last certified commitment filed with
the assessor by the owner pursuant to subdivision three of this section.
Notice of such revocation shall be recorded and indexed as provided in
paragraph (g) of this subdivision.

(i) No fee, penalty or rollback of taxes otherwise due pursuant to
this section may be imposed upon the city of New York for failure to
comply with a certified management plan for an eligible tract that the
city acquires for watershed purposes.

8. (a) The owner of a certified tract shall not be subject to any
penalty under this section that would otherwise apply because such tract
or any portion thereof is converted to a use other than forest crop
production by virtue of: (i) an involuntary taking by eminent domain or
other involuntary proceeding, except a tax sale, or (ii) a voluntary
proceeding, providing such proceeding involves the establishment of
rights-of-way for public highway or energy transmission purposes wherein
such corridors have been established subsequent to public hearing as
needed in the public interest and environmentally compatible, or (iii)
oil, gas or mineral exploration, development or extraction activity
undertaken by an independent grantee pursuant to a lease or other
conveyance of subsurface rights recorded more than ten years prior to
the date of the certificate of approval issued by the department under
subdivision two of this section, or (iv) where all or a substantial
portion of the certified tract is destroyed or irreparably damaged by
reason of an act of God or a natural disaster.

(b) In the event the land so converted to a use other than forest crop
production constitutes only a portion of such tract, the assessor shall
apportion the assessment, and enter that portion so converted as a
separately assessed parcel on the appropriate portion of the assessment
roll. The assessor shall then adjust the forest land exemption
attributable to the portion of the tract not so converted by subtracting
the proportionate part of the exemption of the converted parcel.

(c) If the portion so converted divides the tract into two or more
separate parcels, such remaining parcels not so converted will remain
certified under this section, regardless of size, except that should any
remaining parcel be no longer accessible for continued forest crop
production, the department shall, after notice and hearing, revoke the
certification of the inaccessible parcel or parcels, and notice of such
revocation shall be recorded and indexed as provided in subdivision
seven of this section. Such revocation shall not subject the owner of
the tract to penalty, but the exemption under this section shall no
longer apply to the tract or portion thereof no longer accessible.

(d) The owner of a certified tract shall not be subject to penalty
under this section that would otherwise apply because the forest crop on
the certified tract or portion is, through no fault of the owner,
damaged or destroyed by fire, infestation, disease, storm, flood, or
other natural disaster, act of God, accident, trespass or war. If a
merchantable forest crop is to be cut or removed in connection with
necessary salvage operations resulting from any such event, the owner
shall give notice of cutting, the department shall certify the stumpage
value, and stumpage tax shall be payable, collected and enforced as
provided in subdivisions five and seven of this section. Nothing in this
paragraph shall be construed to subject any person to penalty under
subdivision seven of this section for immediate action taken in good
faith in the event of an emergency.

9. All stumpage tax, penalties and interest charges thereon collected
pursuant to subdivisions five, six and seven of this section shall be
apportioned to the applicable municipal corporations in which such tract
is situated.

10. (a) Management plans approved pursuant to this section shall not
be deemed to authorize or permit any practice or activity prohibited,
restricted or requiring further approval under the environmental
conservation law, or any other general or special law of the state, or
any lawful rule or regulation duly promulgated thereunder.

(b) No otherwise eligible tract, or portion thereof, shall be deemed
to be ineligible for certification or qualification under this section,
and no certificate of approval shall be revoked or penalty imposed,
solely on the ground that any such law, rule or regulation partially
restricts or requires further approval for forest crop production
practices or activities on such tract or portion.