Assessor's Terminology

Glossary of Assessing Terms


A notice on an approved form to the Board of Assessors that the taxpayer disagrees with the assessment on his/her real or personal property. This must be filed no later than the due date of the 3rd quarter bill. This is usually February 1st, but because February 1st falls on a Sunday this year, abatement applications will be accepted through 5 pm on February 2nd.

Abatement Process

The assessors have 90 days from the date the application was filed to act on an appeal. Filing an appeal does not put the tax payment on hold so payments should be made on a timely basis to protect further appeal rights to the state. The Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board (ATB) requires no interest be incurred on the bill. Appeals can be continued to the ATB within three months of the assessors' decisions.

Actual Tax Bills

The actual tax bill is mailed in late December. This bill reflects the previous two payments made on the preliminary tax bills due August 1 and November 1. If trying to calculate the total annual tax, do not take the preliminary quarterly bill and multiply it by 4 as this may inflate the taxes for the fiscal year. Instead, take the assessed value and multiple by the tax rate (per $1,000 of assessed value).

Ad Valorem Tax

A tax based upon the value of the property. Assessed values, in Massachusetts, are based on "full and fair cash value", or 100% of the fair market value.

Arms-Length Sale

A sale between a willing buyer and a willing seller with no unusual circumstances involved in the sale.


An estimate or opinion of value. The resulting opinion of value derived from the appraisal may be informal and transmitted orally or it may be formal and presented in written form. Usually it is a written statement setting forth an opinion of the value of an adequately described property as of a specified date, supported by an analysis of relevant data.

Appellate Tax Board

A quasi-judicial state board for taxpayer appeals after the Board of Assessors has made a decision regarding an abatement application. Application must be made within three months after the date of the decision by the Assessors. Filing information is available at: Appellate Tax Board, 100 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114. Phone number 617-727-3100. Web: A filing fee is required to file an appeal at this level.

Assessed Valuation

A dollar value assigned to a real estate parcel, or other property, by a government unit as the basis for levying taxes. In Massachusetts, assessed valuation is based on the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller on the open market (Full and Fair Cash Value).


A mathematical procedure for converting the net income that a property is capable of producing into an indication of its current value. See income approach.

Chapter 59 - Assessment of Local Taxes

Portion of the Massachusetts General Laws that defines how municipalities assess local taxes, defines the role and responsibilities of assessors, and methods for assessing property.

Classification (Real Property)

Assessors are required to classify all real property according to use into one of four classes: Residential, Open Space, Commercial and Industrial. Having classified its real property, local officials are permitted to determine locally, within limits established by statute and the Commissioner of Revenue (DOR), what percentage of the tax burden is to be borne by each class of real property and by personal property owners.

CIP (Commercial, Industrial, Personal Property)

A group of three property types used to describe the effect of multiple tax rates. A municipality can take a number of actions to shift the levy burden associated with a single tax rate from the Residential category to the CIP category.

Classification (Tax Rate)

In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40 (Powers and Duties of Cities and Towns (paragraph 56), the selectmen or city council vote annually at a required classification hearing on a tax rate factor. Based on the residential factor adopted, a community may set different tax rates for residential property and open space; and commercial, industrial, and personal property (CIP).

Cost Approach

A method used to estimate the market value of an existing property by calculating the current cost to rebuild it and deducting depreciation - also called Replacement Cost New Less Depreciation (RCNLD). Land is valued separately and added to the depreciated replacement cost.

CPA - Community Preservation Act

A surcharge on the actual bill of 1% to 3% and applies to all real property. Upton enacted the CPA Surcharge in FY 2004 with a $100,000 value exemption and a surcharge rate of 3%. [(Assessed Value - $100,000) x Tax Rate x 3%]

Debt Exclusion

A temporary additional taxing capacity over the levy limit. A community can assess taxes in excess of its levy limit by successfully voting a debt exclusion. It is not a permanent increase. The increase levy is only for the period of time to pay for the debt service costs.

Disproportional Assessment

The claim that a taxpayer's property was assessed at a proportion of fair cash value greater than the average proportion at which other properties were assessed in the same city/town.