This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.
REAL PROPERTY TAXES AND ASSESSMENTS -- Payments (collecting officer may not solicit stamped envelopes for mailing tax receipts)
REAL PROPERTY TAX LAW, §986(1): A collecting officer may not request persons paying their taxes by mail who desire a tax receipt to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with their tax payment.
You ask whether a tax collecting officer may request that persons paying their taxes by mail and desiring a tax receipt include a self-addressed stamped envelope with their tax payment.
The mailing of receipts for taxes is governed by the provisions of section 986(1) of the Real Property Tax Law which provides, in part, that:
Every collecting officer shall deliver or upon request forward by mail a receipt to each person paying a tax...
Subdivision (2) of section 986 states that the expense of mailing receipts shall be a charge against the appropriate city, town, village or school district.
We expressed the view in 1982 Opns St Comp No. 82-120, p 149 that since section 986(1) entitles a taxpayer to a tax receipt by mail when requested and since such receipts must be mailed at town expense, a town may not require taxpayers to submit self-addressed stamped envelopes with their tax payments (see also 28 Opns St Comp, 1972, p 167). There have been no amendments to section 986 since that opinion was rendered. Therefore, the conclusion expressed in that opinion still represents the views of this Office.
With respect to requests for stamped self-addressed envelopes, we note that there is no general statutory authority for municipalities to solicit from taxpayers gifts or donations to cover town expenses for services provided to taxpayers (see e.g., 1983 Opns St Comp No. 83-220, p 300; 33 Opns St Comp, 1977, p 62; 1974 Opns St Comp No. 74-1107, unreported). Further, it is our opinion that requesting persons paying their taxes by mail to provide stamped self-addressed envelopes would be inconsistent with the plain language of section 986. In our view, a municipality should not be able to frustrate the purpose of that statute, which, as noted, makes the expense of mailing tax receipts a municipal charge. Accordingly, we conclude that a collecting officer may not request persons paying their taxes by mail and desiring a tax receipt to include a self-addressed stamped envelope with their tax payment.
April 19, 1989
Cathryn C. Thomas, Receiver of Taxes
Town of Webster