Massachusetts Property Taxes
Overview of Massachusetts Property Taxes
Like in many states, Massachusetts property taxes are administered and collected locally by cities and towns across the state. They are the primary funding source for local government departments, including police, firefighters, and garbage collection. The state and its local governments collect $77 billion in total revenue annually. Of that, $16.7 billion or 21.6% of the total revenue collected is from property taxes. Generally, Massachusetts is a high tax state, and the average homeowner pays 1.14% of their home value every year in property taxes. This adds up to $11.38 for every $1,000 in home value.
Massachusetts property tax bills are mailed to homeowners four times a year; in January, April, July, and October. You are required to pay the taxes within 30 days of receiving your tax bill. The taxes are based on your property's assessed value and the tax rates set by the local authorities depending on their budgetary requirements. Every city and town in Massachusetts has local assessors whose job is to value property for taxation purposes as of January 1st.
Under Massachusetts General Law, properties should be assessed at their "full and fair cash value," which is the amount a random buyer would pay for the property. The state allows you to appeal property taxes if you disagree with the assessor's valuation of your property. However, the appeal only challenges the assessment, not the tax rates. If the appeal is successful, a portion of the Massachusetts property taxes paid will be refunded.
What is the Massachusetts property tax rate? Well, the rates vary from county to county as they are decided by the taxing authorities. However, they are expressed in dollars per $1000 of home value, referred to as mill rates. For instance, if your home's assessed value is $300,000 and your local taxing district has a tax rate of 10, your annual Massachusetts property tax bill will add up to $3,000.
If you are planning to buy a home in Massachusetts and want to understand how much your property tax bill could potentially cost, check out our Massachusetts Property Tax Tool to see what your bill would be.
Massachusetts Property Tax Due Dates
In Massachusetts, the tax year starts on July 1st and ends on the following June 30th. Massachusetts property taxes are administered for the fiscal year (July 1st - June 30th) and are based on your property's market value as of January 1st of the previous tax year. As mentioned, properties are assessed on January 1st. New structures, demolitions, and/or improvements that are done on your property between January 1st and June 30th will reflect on your assessment.
When are property taxes due in Massachusetts? Different counties across the state allow homeowners to pay property taxes in four installments. The first tax bill is mailed to homeowners before June 30th and is payable by August 1st and November 1st. The other tax bill is mailed at the end of December and is due on the first days of February and May. If the due date falls on a weekend or holiday, it is pushed to the next business day. Additionally, failure to receive a tax bill doesn't relieve you of the responsibility to pay Massachusetts property taxes.
Taxes that remain unpaid after Massachusetts property tax due dates are considered late, and interests are added at a rate of 14% per annum until they are cleared. Interest on late payment is charged for the total days that the tax remains delinquent. For instance, if a payment due on August 1st is not paid by the end of the business day, the 14% interest is charged from August 2nd until the due Massachusetts property taxes are cleared.
Massachusetts Property Tax Exemptions
Besides offering you the option of appealing property taxes if you have reasons to object to your assessment, the state of Massachusetts provides several exemptions to qualifying homeowners. They include senior and homestead exemptions. The exemptions apply to the assessed value, not the tax rates. You are also required to comply with Massachusetts' property tax due dates even if you are eligible for the exemptions.
Massachusetts Homestead Exemption
The homestead exemption exempts up to $125,000 of your home's value from Massachusetts property taxes. To qualify, you must be a legal Massachusetts resident and be using the property as your principal residence. Under the Massachusetts Homestead Act, this exemption also provides limited protection to your home's equity from creditors for amounts of up to $500,000. This protects your home against a future forced sale. However, the exemption doesn't apply to homes used as collateral to acquire a loan.
Massachusetts Senior Citizens Exemption
Massachusetts' senior exemption is also known as the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit. It provides a refundable credit for senior residents on Massachusetts property taxes paid on their principal residence. For the fiscal year 2020, the maximum credit amount for eligible seniors was $1,150. To qualify, you must be at least 65 years of age, be a Massachusetts resident or part-year resident, and meet specific income limit requirements. If the credit you are due surpasses the amount of property taxes billed for the year, you receive the additional amount of the credit minus interest.
Other Massachusetts property tax exemptions include the disabled veterans' exemption, which provides a range of exemptions to eligible disabled veterans depending on the severity of their disability. Under the exemption, the disabled veteran is eligible for an abatement starting from $600 up to $6,000 of the taxable valuation of property used as a principal residence. The disability has to be 100% related to military service as determined by the Veterans Association. Additionally, the veteran must have lived in the state for five years. More information regarding this exemption can be obtained from the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts's website.
How to Appeal Your Property Taxes in Massachusetts
The state of Massachusetts allows you to appeal property taxes if you disagree with the assessor's valuation of your property. The appeal process starts with filing an abatement application with the local board of assessors. This preserves your right to appeal to the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board ("ATB") if you disagree with the assessor's response to your application. The local assessors have three months to consider your application. The assessor's decision is mailed to you within 10 days of reaching the decision. You can appeal with the ATB within three months of the assessor's decision. Decisions by the ATB can be further appealed with the Massachusetts Appeals Court. Kindly note that you must pay your Massachusetts property taxes pending a decision on your appeal.
The process of filing an assessment appeal varies across Massachusetts though it generally follows the same steps from county to county:
- Obtain your assessment
- Determine if you are overassessed
- Complete forms needed to appeal
- File property tax appeal
- Prepare for hearing
- Attend hearing
- Appeal the decision
How to Appeal Your Property Taxes in Middlesex County
To help you understand how to appeal your property taxes in Massachusetts, here is a breakdown of the appeal process in Middlesex County, Massachusetts' most populous county.
Obtain your assessment
If you own property in Middlesex County, you can obtain your assessment details from your Notice of Assessment (NOA). Alternatively, you can visit the Assessor's office.
Determine if you are over-assessed
Simply believing that your property was overvalued is not sufficient ground for an appeal. You need to be sure that your property's valuation does not reflect its true market value. Use TaxProper's search tool to search for similar units within your locality to determine their assessment and compare them with your property.
Complete forms needed to appeal
The forms needed to appeal property taxes will be availed to you at the assessor's office. Alternatively, you can obtain the forms from ATB offices or their website.
File property tax appeal
Property tax appeals in Middlesex County can be filed with the Appellate Tax Board. The appeal can be filed via mail or in person at the ATB's offices. Appeals must be filed within three months of the local assessors denying your Application for Abatement.
Prepare for hearing
As the appellant, you are required to provide compelling evidence supporting your opinion of valuation. This can include a detailed description of your property, sales of comparable properties, photographs of the comparable properties, and opinions from an expert witness.
The ATB requires you to attend an appeal hearing. You are required to provide evidence and answer questions from the assessor and/or the hearing officer. Failure to participate in the hearing can lead to the dismissal of your appeal. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, current hearings are being conducted virtually via Zoom or phone.
Appeal the decision
You can appeal decisions by ATB to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. If you decide to appeal, you must file a Notice of Appeal with the ATB within 30 days of making that decision.
Property Tax Information for Massachusetts Counties
The table below provides county-level information about how property taxes work in each Massachusetts county.
Want to learn more? Click the county links to learn more about a specific Massachusetts county.
|County||Average Home Value||Average Tax Bill||Bill per $1,000|