FIBER OPTIC CABLES NOT TAXABLE UNDER THE REAL PROPERTY TAX LAW.
The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined fiber optic cables were not included in the statutory definition of real property and therefore were not taxable under the Real Property Tax Law (RPTL). However, because the fiber optic company paid the taxes voluntarily and without protest, it was not entitled to a refund:
The word distribution means “a spreading out or scattering over an area or throughout a space” or “delivery or conveyance (as of newspapers or goods) to the members of a group” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary ). Examples include “the distribution of the oil throughout the engine parts” and “the distribution of telephone directories to customers” (id.). In other words, distribution implies an “apportioning of something” more or less evenly, or as a due or right, to an “appropriate person or place” … . Given the context in which the word distribution appears in RPTL 102 (12) (f), that definition makes sense. Undoubtedly, the kinds of equipment enumerated in the statute, such as boilers, plumbing, and lighting apparatus, distribute heat, liquids, and light to consumers. By contrast, although “the fiber optic cables at issue undeniably transmit light signals from one end of the network to the other, such transmission does not result in the distribution’ of light, but rather data” … . Thus, we cannot conclude that petitioner’s fiber optic installations distribute light ” without resorting to an artificial or forced construction’ ” … . Matter of Level 3 Communications, LLC v Chautauqua County, 2017 NY Slip Op 02322, 4th Dept 3-24-17
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