Department of Taxation and Finance


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NYS Comptroller


Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Taxation and Finance
Oversight of the Agricultural Assessment Program

Issued: February 2, 2018
Link to full audit report 2017-S-26
Link to 90-day response

To determine if the Department of Taxation and Finance’s (Department) Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS) is properly calculating and communicating the annual per-acre Agricultural Assessment Values that local assessors and boards of assessors use to compute agricultural property assessments and the resulting exemptions. The audit covers the assessment roll years 2014 through 2016.

The New York Agricultural Districts Law was enacted in 1971 to protect and promote the availability of land for farming purposes. The law allows reduced property tax bills for land in agricultural production by limiting the property tax assessment of the land to its prescribed per-acre Agricultural Assessment Value (AAV). ORPTS annually calculates and certifies the per-acre AAV for soil groups, aquaculture, and farm woodland. Local assessors determine whether land is eligible for the Agricultural Assessment Program (Program) by evaluating the property owner’s application, including consideration of whether the land satisfies gross sales and acreage eligibility requirements. Assessors are required to use the ORPTS values to determine the agricultural assessment and corresponding exemption amounts for enrolled properties.

Key Findings

  • We identified an error in an ORPTS calculation in 2006 that caused subsequent years’ AAVs to be incorrect, including those certified and communicated to local assessors during our audit period.
  • Assessors’ use of the incorrect AAVs resulted in about $10.4 million in excess agricultural exemptions granted to Program property owners during the three-year period 2014 through 2016 for 10,416 properties in the eight counties we analyzed. Because of the excess exemptions, an estimated $349,069 in real property taxes was not collected from Program property owners.

Key Recommendations

  • As warranted and appropriate, take corrective action relating to the error that affected the AAV used in arriving at agricultural property assessments and the related exemptions.
  • Take steps to prevent and detect future errors in certified per-acre AAVs.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest
Department of Taxation and Finance: 2015 Property Tax Freeze Credit Report

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Steve Goss
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email:
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236