Real Estate FAQ

What is the difference between a Revaluation and an Interim Year Adjustment?

State law requires that a revaluation be conducted every three years to ensure that all properties in town are assessed at market value. An Interim Year Adjustment updates the values between revaluations.

 

Why is an Interim Year Adjustment necessary?

Changes in market conditions between revaluations may require that assessments be adjusted to meet mass-appraisal standards of market value. The Assessors are required by law to assess property at market value each year.

 

As a result of the Interim Year Adjustment, will all property values change at the same percentage?

Not necessarily. Market conditions typically do not change at the same rate throughout town. Valuations may have increased more for some neighborhoods and property types than for others. Some neighborhoods and property types may have decreased in value while others may have increased.

 

Who will conduct the Interim Year Adjustment?

Under the guidance of the Board of Assessors, a professional appraisal/consultant firm hired by the board will update all properties to market value. This outside consultant may also be utilized, particularly in valuing the commercial, industrial and personal properties.

 

What is considered market value?

State law requires that property be assessed at market value each year. Market value is defined, as the most probable price a property will bring on the open market. The Assessors follow Department of Revenue guidelines in determining market values throughout town.

 

What is a comparable sale?

For FY2015, a comparable sale is a property that sold during 2013 and is similar to yours in location, style, age, size, and condition. The Assessors analyze the 2013 market sales because 1/1/2014 is the assessment date for FY2015

 

How can the Assessors value my property for more than I paid for it?

For FY2015, all of the arms-length sales that occurred during calendar year 2013 will be analyzed and if there are not enough sales to meet the criteria required by the Department of Revenue, additional sales from 2012 will be included. The sales will be analyzed by building style, neighborhood etc. Typically, some properties will sell for more than market value and others will sell for less than market value. The Assessors follow Department of Revenue guidelines in determining the average selling price of each type of property.

 

What if there are no comparable sales for my property?

With the number of sales occurring within Worthington decreasing over the past several years it can present some problems in finding comparable sales for some properties. The Assessors may also consider other factors that affect the market value of your property. Rental income is also used to estimate value for apartment buildings along with commercial & industrial properties.

 

Will the wetlands on my property reduce my land value?

The presence of wetlands does not warrant an automatic reduction in ones land value. In most cases property values are not negatively affected by wetlands.

 

What are the major factors that determine property assessments?

Typically, the lot size, location, square footage of the house, overall condition, and amenities are the main factors that determine property assessments.

 

Will my assessment increase if I make improvements to my property?

Generally speaking, improvements that increase the market value of your property will increase your assessment. The following examples are factors that may increase the assessment of your property.

  • Additions, such as added rooms or garages
  • Extensive remodeling or modernization

 

How can my assessment increase when I haven’t improved my property?

The Assessors may adjust valuations every year if the town’s values either rise or fall due to market conditions. If market conditions change substantially, an adjustment to your assessment will be necessary.

 

Why is it necessary for the Assessors to inspect my property?

Department of Revenue guidelines state that the Assessors shall inspect all property at least once every 10 years. To make a proper assessment on a home, it is desirable that an interior and exterior inspection be conducted. A full inspection will provide the Assessors with the correct data on your property and eliminate the need to estimate data.

 

What information are the Assessors looking for during the inspection process?

Examples of data the Assessors will verify are: the room count, type of heating system and physical condition of the home.

 

What can I do if I don’t agree with my assessment?

You can file an abatement application with the Assessors office when you receive your actual tax bill. The actual tax bill is mailed after the tax rate is set. The last day to file an abatement application is February 1st

 

What evidence should I present to the Assessors if I file an abatement application?

The burden of proof is on the property owner to show that their assessment is incorrect. The best evidence would be a recent sale price on your home or a comparable sale. You could also compare similar properties in your neighborhood to see if the assessments are equitable. Although it is only an opinion of value, the Assessors could also consider a narrative appraisal of your property as evidence.

 

What are the reasons to apply for an abatement?

An abatement is a reduction in the tax assessed on your property for the fiscal year. To dispute your valuation or assessment or to correct any other billing problem or error that caused your tax bill to be higher than it should be, you must apply for an abatement.

You may apply for an abatement if your property is:

  1. Overvalued (assessed value is more than fair cash value on January 1 for any reason, including clerical and data processing errors or assessment of property that is non-existent or not taxable to you)
  2. Disproportionately assessed in comparison with other properties
  3. Classified incorrectly as residential, open space, commercial or industrial real property
  4. Partially or fully exempt.

 

Who may file an application for abatement?

You may file an application if you are:

  • the assessed or subsequent (acquiring title after January 1) owner of the property,
  • the owner’s administrator or executor,
  • a tenant paying rent who is obligated to pay more than one-half of the tax,
  • a person owning or having an interest or possession of the property, or
  • a mortgagee if the assessed owner has not applied.
  • In some cases, you must pay all or a portion of the tax before you can file.

 

When and where must the abatement application be filed?

Your application must be filed with the board of assessors on or before the date the first installment payment of the actual tax bill mailed for the fiscal year is due. Applications filed for omitted, revised or reassessed taxes must be filed within 3 months of the date the bill for those taxes was mailed.

THESE DEADLINES CANNOT BE EXTENDED OR WAIVED BY THE ASSESSORS FOR ANY REASON. IF YOUR APPLICATION IS NOT TIMELY FILED, YOU LOSE ALL RIGHTS TO AN ABATEMENT AND THE ASSESSORS CANNOT BY LAW GRANT YOU ONE. TO BE TIMELY FILED, YOUR APPLICATION MUST BE (1) RECEIVED BY THE ASSESSORS ON OR BEFORE THE FILING DEADLINE OR (2) MAILED BY UNITED STATES MAIL, FIRST CLASS POSTAGE PREPAID, TO THE PROPER ADDRESS OF THE ASSESSORS ON OR BEFORE THE FILING DEADLINE AS SHOWN BY A POSTMARK MADE BY THE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE.

 

If filing for an abatement, must I first pay my tax?

Filing an application does not stay the collection of your taxes. In some cases, you must pay the tax when due to appeal the assessors’ disposition of your application. Failure to pay the tax assessed when due may also subject you to interest charges and collection action. To avoid any loss of rights or additional charges, you should pay the tax as assessed. If an abatement is granted and you have already paid the entire year’s tax as abated, you will receive a refund of any overpayment.

 

What is the assessors’ disposition of abatement applications?

Upon applying for an abatement, you may be asked to provide the assessors with written information about the property and permit them to inspect it. Failure to provide the information or permit an inspection within 30 days of the request may result in the loss of your appeal rights.

The assessors have 3 months from the date your application is filed to act unless you agree in writing before that period expires to extend it for a specific time. If the assessors do not act on your application within the original or extended period, it is deemed denied. You will be notified in writing whether an abatement has been granted or denied.

 

What if I disagree with the disposition of my abatement application?

You may appeal the disposition of your application. The notice you receive will provide you with further information about the appeal procedure and deadline. You may contact the Appellate Tax Board at: 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 200 Boston, MA 02114 or by calling 1-617-727-3100.

 

Will my new assessment affect the amount of property tax I pay?

Each fiscal year the town establishes the property tax levy, which is the amount of revenue a community can raise through real and personal property taxes. The tax levy is the largest source of revenue in terms of providing for and maintaining town services. Although the value of your property affects your share of the levy, the actual amount of tax property owners pay as a whole, is determined during the budget process and at Town Meeting. Your tax bill is calculated by multiplying your assessment by the fiscal year’s tax rate.

 

At what ratio is property assessed?

100% of full and fair cash value.

 

What does 100% of full and fair cash value mean?

The courts have defined this phrase to mean “the amount that a willing buyer and a willing seller, each with a good knowledge of the current market and each acting without undue pressure or compulsion will pay for a property”. Thus, in determining value, assessors seek to approximate what property would sell for on the open market, within an acceptable range of error.

 

How do I check ownership of property and property valuation?

Go to the Worthington Property Database through the link on our website. Information there may be accessed through street address, ownership or map & lot.

 

I just bought my property this year. Why are the prior owner(s) names still on the bill?

Property tax assessments are billed for fiscal year 2014, with an effective date of January 1, 2013. This means that the owner as of January 1, 2013 should appear on the tax bill. However, as the current owner, you should still pay the tax bill before the due date to avoid interest from being assessed and a tax lien being placed on the property.

 

Do you have the Legal Reference when the property was sold or transferred?

Yes, the Assessor’s Office lists a book and page reference on property record cards for all of the properties sold from the early 1990’s and for many of the older properties in town. Some cards do not contain this reference and those without a listing must be obtained through the Hampshire Registry of Deeds. In researching those properties you will need the year of the sale, and the name of either the buyer or the seller.

 

Can I view the assessors’ maps?

Yes, you can view the maps online through our website or through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Registry of Deeds website @ www.masslandrecords.com by choosing the Hampshire Registry of Deeds


Personal Property FAQ

What is personal property?

Personal property is business equipment, office machinery, inventory, and furniture and fixtures.

 

Who must pay this tax?

All registered business organizations are eligible to pay unless exempt by state statute for charitable, religious, and non-profit status.

 

What is a Form of List?

A state required form notifying the Assessor’s Office of any all business equipment, furniture, fixtures and sales inventory for each year.

 

Who must file a return?

This form must be filed each year by all individuals, partnerships, associations, trusts and corporations that own or hold taxable personal property on January 1, except telephone and telegraph companies and owners of pipelines that are required to file a personal property return with the Mass. Dept. of Revenue. Individuals owning or holding household furnishings and effects not located at their domicile on January 1 must also file State Tax Form 2HF. Literary, temperance, benevolent, charitable or scientific organizations that may be entitled to an exemption must file State Tax Form 3 ABC listing all property they own or hold for those purposes on January 1st.

 

When and where must my return be filed?

Forms of List must be filed by March 1st with the Board of Assessors in the city or town where the personal property is situated on January 1st. If the property has no situs on January 1, it must be listed on a Form of List filed with the assessors in the city or town where you are domiciled (legal residence or place of business). A Form of List is not considered filed unless it is complete.

 

Can I get an extension of the filing deadline?

The Board of Assessors may extend the filing deadline if you can show a sufficient reason for not filing on time.

 

What is the penalty for failure to file or filing late?

If you do not file a Form of List for the fiscal year, the assessors cannot grant an abatement if you show a reasonable excuse for the late filing or the tax assessed is more than 150% of the amount that would have been assessed if the list had been timely filed. In that case, only the amount over that percentage can be abated. You can avoid this penalty by filing on time.

 

What is the return used for and who has access to it?

The information in the Form of List is used by the Board of Assessors to determine the taxable or exempt status of your personal property and, if taxable, its’ fair market value. You may also be required to provide the assessors with further information about the property in writing and asked to permit them to inspect it. Forms of List are not available to the public for inspection under the public records law. They are available only to the Board of Assessors and Massachusetts Department of Revenue for purposes of administering the tax laws.

 

Who is eligible for an abatement?

Anyone who feels overvalued or exempt is eligible to file for an abatement. You must file an abatement form at the Assessor’s Office within 30 days of the first regular tax bill for that fiscal year.

 

Should I bring any necessary data with me?

You should bring any information that supports your case.

 

Are abatement applications public records?

All abatement filings and abatement amounts are public records. However, individual abatement applications are not public records.


Motor Vehicle FAQ

What is Motor Vehicle and Trailer Excise tax?

It is an annual tax for the privilege of registration. Anyone who registers with Massachusetts license plates will be billed based on the information supplied to the Registry of Motor Vehicles on the registrant’s application. A motor vehicle and trailer excise is in lieu of a tangible personal property tax and is levied for the privilege of registration. M.G.L. Ch. 60A, which is the statutory basis for the excise, uses the motor vehicle itself as a means to measure this privilege. Revenue derived from the excise can be used by cities and towns for any lawful purpose. Prior to 1981 the rate was $66 per thousand. With the passage of Proposition 2 1/2 the rate was set at $25 per thousand.

The excise is levied for a full calendar year and is assessed by the community where the motor vehicle is customarily garaged. In those instances where vehicles are registered in the Commonwealth but garaged outside of Massachusetts, the Commissioner of Revenue assesses the excise which is paid into the State treasury. M.G.L. Ch. 60A Sec. 1 provides that the owner of any motor vehicle registered for less than a full calendar year will be obligated to pay an excise based on the entire month when the vehicle was registered, as well as the remaining months of the year. For example, a vehicle registered on April 9th will be assessed an excise for the months of April through December.

 

Who must pay?

Anyone with Massachusetts license plates.

 

What is the rate?

The rate is $25.00 on the thousand. This is the standard rate for the entire Commonwealth.

 

How are vehicles valued?

The value of the vehicle is determined by the RMV (Registry of Motor Vehicles) formula taking the applicable percentage for the year of the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). The manufacturers’ list price rather than the actual purchase price is used to calculate motor vehicle excise tax.
Based on valuation rates set by the state, vehicles are valued as follows:

  • 90% of manufacturer’s list price when new (1st year)
  • 60% of mfr.’s list price (2nd year)
  • 40% of mfr.’s list price (3rd year)
  • 25% of mfr.’s list price (4th year)
  • 10% of mfr.’s list price (5th year)
  • If you buy a 2014 car in 2013, the vehicle is valued at 50% for 2013, and the valuation then follows the above-stated rates, starting with 90% for the 1st year (2014).

 

Can I apply for an abatement?

You may qualify for an abatement when:

  • a vehicle is sold, traded, or junked
  • a vehicle is totaled
  • a vehicle is stolen
  • a registrant moves to another city or town within Massachusetts prior to January 1st of the taxing year
  • a registrant moves out of state, cancels his/her MA registration, and registers in another state prior to December 1st.
What information do I need to file with an MVE abatement application?

You will need the following items:

  • Sold, Traded, or Junked: Bill of sale AND either a plate return receipt or new registration, if plates were transferred
  • Stolen, or Total Loss: Insurance Company Settlement letter and C-19 form (affidavit of Lost/Stolen plate from Registry of Motor Vehicles).
  • Moved to another city or town in MA prior to January 1st of the taxing year: Date of move, proof of residency as of January 1st, For example, utility bill, voter registration receipt unless your new address appears on the bill. If new address appears on bill, supply date of move and return your bill to Assessor’s Office.
  • Moved to another state or country: Dated copy of original registration from the new state or country and either a plate return receipt or a C-19 form from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
How are abatements figured?

Abatements are pro-rated monthly. The minimum tax is $5.00. Therefore, an abatement amount of less than $5.00 cannot be granted.

 

Who qualifies for a Motor Vehicle Excise exemption?

Those listed below qualify for an exemption.
BLIND:

  1. Permanent impairment of vision in both eyes
  2. Must own and register for their own personal use
  3. Must submit either a certificate from the Division of the Blind or a physician’s letter
  4. Once a certificate has been submitted, you need only to file a yearly application.

HANDICAPPED:

  1. Must suffer either the loss of or the permanent loss of use of both arms or both legs
  2. A letter from physician must be submitted
  3. If exemption is sought due to loss of use of limbs, the letter must state that it is a permanent loss
  4. Once this statement has been submitted, you need only file a yearly application
  5. Vehicle must be owned and registered by handicapped person

NOTE: For both the blind and the handicapped exemptions, the amount is reduced if the vehicle is registered in more than one name, e.g., one half of the exemption is registered in two names.

VETERANS:

  1. Must suffer either the loss of or the permanent loss of use of one foot, one hand, one eye, or permanent impairment of vision in both eyes
  2. A certificate from the Veteran’s Administration must be furnished
  3. The vehicle must be owned and registered in the name of the veteran
  4. You need only file a yearly application

PRISONER OF WAR:

  1. Any U.S. Military former Prisoner of War who registers a vehicle with a P.O.W. license plate
  2. A yearly application must be filed

Non-Domiciliary Servicemen:

  1. Servicemen assigned to Massachusetts by the Armed Forces
  2. Vehicle must be registered in his/her name
  3. Must submit a letter from either a commanding or personnel officer stating that he/she is a non-domiciliary assigned to Massachusetts
  4. Must be assigned here at the time of registration

 

When must I file for a Motor Vehicle Excise abatement/exemption?

The owner, if aggrieved by the excise assessed, may at any time within 3 years after the date the excise was due or 1 year after the date the excise was paid, whichever is later, apply for an abatement to the Board of Assessors. Do not ignore your excise bill! Even though you may have sold, traded or otherwise disposed of the vehicle, your bill is always due thirty (30) days from the issue date. If the bill is unpaid and remains outstanding more than thirty (30) days after its issue date, it will accrue interest charges and fees for which you will be responsible. Your driver’s will be marked at the RMV by the Tax Collector’s Office.

 

Where must I file for an abatement?

You can file either in person at the Assessor’s Office or through the mail for any type of abatement or exemption.


General Questions

If I have questions about real estate or personal property abatements, exemptions, deferrals, or motor vehicle excise tax, whom can I call?

Call the Board of Assessors at (413) 238-5577 Extension 104.

 

When my tax abatement or exemption is processed will I be notified?

You will receive an Abatement or Exemption Certificate from the Board of Assessors. If a refund is due, a check will follow from the Tax Collector

 

If I have a question regarding payment of taxes, whom do I call?

Call the Tax Collector’s office at (413) 238-5577 Extension 103.

 

How is the Department of Revenue involved?

Through its Division of Local Services, the unit that has regulatory and assistance responsibilities for municipal finance and taxation, the Department staff certifies both valuations and tax rates for the cities and towns.

The Division of Local Services functions through four (4) Bureaus:

  1. Local Assessment
  2. Municipal Finance Law
  3. Municipal Data Mgmt / Technical Assistance,
  4. Bureau of Accounts

BUREAU OF LOCAL ASSESSMENT: The Bureau of Local Assessment is responsible for regulation, oversight, training and technical assistance to cities and towns in the areas of real and personal property valuation and classification. Consequently, one of the main duties of the Bureau is to review and recertify each municipality’s property values once every three years to ensure they are at full and fair market value. The Bureau also values properties for state mandated programs. Statutory valuation programs include biennial equalized valuation study used in distributing state local aid, estimating the value of certain state owned land for municipal reimbursement programs; centrally valuing utility telephone and gas pipeline companies for local property tax assessment, assisting in the development of Ch. 61A farmland values and approving new tax base levy growth.

BUREAU OF MUNICIPAL FINANCE LAW: The Bureau of Municipal Finance Law serves as the legal bureau for the Division of Local Services. It provides legal advice on municipal tax and finance issues to Division and Department of Revenue staff, state and local officials and others. This includes issuing written legal opinions and promulgating guidelines and other written materials advising local officials about new legislation and the implementation of municipal tax and finance laws generally.

MUNICIPAL DATA MANAGEMENT/TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE BUREAU: MDM/Tab is responsible for developing and maintaining the Municipal Databank; coordinating the preparation and dissemination of Cherry Sheet state aid estimates and the distribution of quarterly local aid; and updating comprehensive financial spreadsheets on municipal revenues, expenditures and demographic data found on the Division’s website. The Technical Assistance Section coordinates the Division’s on-site financial management assistance program. In the course of serving cities and towns for over 25 years, MDM/TAB has built a substantial data and knowledge base, as well as an unique expertise in municipal finance, which it now shares through its website.

BUREAU OF ACCOUNTS: The Bureau of Accounts oversees the financial management of Massachusetts’ 351 cities and towns. The BOA field staff assist financial officers with State regulations and requirements, approve tax rates, certify compliance with Proposition 2 1/2, and offer instruction in sound municipal accounting practices. Certain issues of debt of city, town, counties, and districts are issued as “State House notes” and are certified by the Director of Accounts. The Director also certifies free cash of cities and towns that is thereafter available for appropriation. The Bureau reviews and approves audit reports of various Massachusetts local governments submitted by independent CPA firms.

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