During the month of January, communities in Massachusetts send out final tax bills for the fiscal year. I received mine on January 2nd, and it includes billing for the third and fourth payments of real estate taxes for the fiscal year 2019. This bill also includes the assessment value of the property that is being taxed. Assessed value is supposed to reflect the actual worth of your real property on the open market.
State law (General Laws Chapter 59, § 59) provides that tax payers may question the assessed value of their property if they believe that the assessment is above fair market value. However, there is a limited time in which to file for what is called an “abatement”. That period of time is not later than the due date of the first actual (not “preliminary”) tax payment (i.e., usually Feb. 1).
Therefore, as you review your property tax bill this month, be sure to look at the sections that state the city or town’s indication of property value. If you believe that the stated assessed value is in excess of real, market value, it is possible for you to file an abatement application with the city or town’s Board of Assessors. Remember that there is a deadline for filing; abatement requests may only be accepted within the period between the date you receive the bill and the due date (again, usually Feb. 1).
The form is easy to complete – only one page (front and back) with few spaces to fill in. Once the form is filed, the Assessors will review it in relation to comparable sales values in your neighborhood. You may also be asked to provide verification of why you believe the assessment is too high. In some cases, it may be worth your while to hire an appraiser to give you a certified statement of actual value that you can then give to the Assessors as proof of over-assessment.
In any case, it doesn’t hurt to file the application if you believe you are over-assessed. Happy New Year!