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If the Board of Assessors denies your application for abatement, or if you believe the abated value is still incorrect, you have the right to appeal this decision to the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board. You must file your appeal within three months of the Board’s decision. You may contact the Appellate Tax Board at 617-727-3100, or visit the site of the Appellate Tax Board.
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The Board of Assessors is responsible for determining the fair market value of all property located within the Town. There are three principal types of local taxes administered by the Board: real estate, personal property, and motor vehicle excise. The Board is also responsible for the administration of all laws relative to local taxation as outlined in the General Laws of Massachusetts, and is supervised in the administration of these laws by the Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services. Additionally, the Board of Assessors is responsible for compiling and submitting all data required for setting the tax rate on an annual basis to the Department of Revenue for approval on an annual basis.
The Assessing Department does not raise or lower taxes. The amount of taxes charged is determined by the amount of tax dollars, or tax levy, required to cover the cost of local services. The tax levy is determined by the Town’s spending, which is determined by the voters at Town Meeting. While the Assessing Department is responsible for determining each person’s share of the levy, they have no control over an individual’s tax bill.
Assessed values for Fiscal 2022 are as of January 1st, 2021. They are based upon the calendar 2020 sales of similar properties. The property that sold in your neighborhood last month is not considered in the current assessments. Unlike a "Fee Appraisal" for a mortgage, Assessor's utilize "Mass Appraisal". Assessors analyze an entire year's sales, looking at assessment to sales ratios and different property characteristics. The analysis compares similar properties using factors such as size, location, style, age, quality and condition. Utilizing a CAMA (Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal) system, they apply this analysis equitably across all the properties in Town. The effectiveness of this relies on accurate data to evaluate that people paid X for Y.
Valuation in Massachusetts is based on "full and fair cash value", or the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller on the open market. Determining the "full and fair cash value" involves reviewing the sales of similar properties (the market approach to value), what the property would cost today to replace (the cost approach to value), and for income-producing properties, a knowledge of current economic conditions such as rental and vacancy rates, current interest rates, and the rate of return a potential purchaser can expect to receive on their investment (the income approach to value). The Assessor does not create value. Rather, he/she has the responsibility to discover and reflect the changes that are occurring in the marketplace.
In the Town of Westborough, for new construction, or properties that have permit activity due to additions, pools, or any type of improvement to the property, the assessment is based upon the status of the property as of July 1st of any given year.
You have no legal obligation to allow the Assessor to inspect your property unless you apply for an abatement of your property tax. However, for the Assessor to properly perform their duty of applying fair and equitable values to all properties within the community it is imperative that the data they have on each property is accurate. For this reason, the taxpayers’ cooperation with the inspection process is very important and greatly appreciated by the Assessor.
The Fiscal Year begins on July 1st and runs until June 30th. The first two tax bills received on July 1st and October 1st are preliminary tax bills based upon the prior year's values and tax rate. The new Fiscal Year's assessments are set in the fall, the community determines if there will be a split or single rate and a tax rate set by mid-December. The tax bills sent by January 1st represent the Actual bills for the Fiscal year. These bills use the new Fiscal Year's assessment and tax rate to determine the total year's taxes due. The preliminary amounts are subtracted. The remaining amount is divided by two for the third and fourth quarters. This calculation results in the four quarters not being the same.
The total increase in taxes is $575.70
Many take the recent tax bill just received and multiply by four to calculate their total taxes for the year. In the example above, that would represent an increase of $1,151.40. You can take some consolation in that the next July's bill will be less than the bills just received.
If you believe your property value is too high you should speak to someone in the Assessor's Office. The first step is to review your property record card to insure that the data is correct. Quite often, if the value is incorrect it is due to a simple data error. The next step would be to review the sales of similar properties within the community, and particularly within a neighborhood similar to yours. The assessing staff will assist you with this process if you need help, as all data is available in their office.
Once you have completed these steps, if you still believe the assessment of your property is incorrect you should apply for an abatement. You must apply for an abatement by February 1st of any given year, or thirty (30) days from the postmark on the third quarter tax bill, whichever date is later. Upon receipt of your application the Assessor will most likely contact you to arrange for an inspection of your property to take place in order to verify the accuracy of the data. The Board of Assessors has three months from the date they are received to act upon abatement applications, and is required to notify you in writing within ten days of their decision, regardless of whether the decision is to abate or deny your application.
Finally, it is important that you understand that abatements are granted or denied based upon valuation issues, not tax issues. In other words, if your issue is with your tax bill but not your value you have no grounds to apply for an abatement. Tax dollars are determined by the spending at Town Meeting, not the value of your property, and while the Assessor has total jurisdiction over the assessments on all properties within the community, they have no jurisdiction over spending.
Simply, value adjustments are not linear. The value calculations include all factors that go into a property. While houses may be similar, it is rare that they are identical. There can be differences in interior improvements, acreage, living area and condition. Living area and acreage valuation is also not linear and cannot be compared in that way.
Proposition 2 ½ is a State law that places constraints on the amount of real and personal property taxes that the Town is allowed to raise in any given Fiscal Year. The amount of tax dollars, or levy, allowed under Proposition 2 ½ is called the “levy limit”. The levy limit is determined by multiplying the previous year’s limit by 2 ½ per cent, and adding to that the tax dollars generated from any new construction within the Town that is not the result of property revaluation. The levy limit under Proposition 2 ½ may be exceeded only by the Town’s approval of a debt exclusion or override. A debt exclusion allows the Town to exceed the levy limit only for the life of the debt, i.e., the terms of the borrowing, while an override is a permanent increase in the levy limit.
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