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All cities and towns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts assess the value of property using a Mass Appraisal system. This system is a broad approach to predicting the value of properties that did not sell using the information collected about the properties that did sell. It is the application of a small database of information (the sold properties) to a large database of properties (the unsold properties).
As defined by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Mass Appraisal is the use of standardized procedures for collecting data and appraising property to ensure that all properties within a municipality are valued uniformly and equitably. Mass Appraisal is the processes of valuing a universe of properties as of a given valuation date using common data, a standardized procedure, and statistical testing. Unlike individual fee appraisal, which is intended to derive the market value of a single property, the goal of Mass Appraisal is to bring all properties to their full and fair market value, whether properties have sold recently or not, and thus to achieve equity among all property values.
The Department of Revenue requires cities and towns to revalue all properties every five years for certification according to specific requirements set by the Bureau of Local Assessment. The results of the revaluation process must meet statistical standards defined by the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue also requires that cities perform interim year adjustments, which are conducted between certification years. Waiting five years between revaluations leads to large adjustments, whereas revaluing every year and annually adjusting to market trends, generally results in smaller increments of change.
In Mass Appraisal, the universe of properties is defined as all properties in a city or town including single-family homes, two-family homes, three-family homes, condominiums, apartments, vacant land, commercial properties, industrial properties, and mixed-use properties. The process described in this document only addresses the mass appraisal of single-family homes and condominiums.
The valuation date for an assessment as defined in the laws of the Commonwealth is January 1st prior to the fiscal year, and the assessed value reflects estimated market value as of that date. For example, the assessment date for Fiscal Year 2024 is January 1, 2023. To determine the estimated market value of a parcel on January 1, 2023, the arms-length sales (between a willing buyer and a willing seller with no unusual circumstances) that occurred between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022 are analyzed.
The standardized procedure followed for determining full and fair market value involves using a model, defining parameters, and performing iterations of statistical analysis to validate the model results. To accomplish this, a sales database is created each year containing information about the sales that occurred in the year prior to the valuation date. This is the small database of information (the sold properties) which will be applied to the large database of properties (the unsold properties). The sales database is used to establish the criteria for applying the characteristics of sold properties to the unsold properties. The standardized procedure used is the following:
This information is meant to be a brief overview of the assessment process; the actual process may require additional information and documentation, as deemed required by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and its Bureau of Local Assessments.
In Summary: Home valuations are based on Sales Analysis. The property valuations are reviewed on a yearly basis. Valuations are based on Sales analysis performed for all qualified property sales during prior year, dependent on the number of qualified Sales, values may be based on the prior twelve to eighteen months. New property valuations be decreased or increased as a result of the analysis and where the Assessment to Sales Ratio (ASR) falls within the Department of Revenue guidelines.
This is a very common occurrence with lenders being extremely cautious with their appraisals. An Appraisal can give an opinion of value greater than or less than the Assessed Value as the appraiser typically uses sales data within the past 6 months and Assessed Values is based on the prior calendar year sales. Assessed Value for Real Estate Tax is retrospective - it is based on past sales activity. An Appraisal is typically the opinion of the current market value. Bank appraisals are usually different than the town's assessment valuations. What you must compare is your tax assessment valuation relative to the assessment valuation set for the town of Upton. Is your home consistently assessed with other properties in the town of Upton?
All taxpayers have the right to contest their assessment. To do so you must file an application for abatement in writing on an approved form with the board of assessors. Tax abatement forms are available from your assessor's office. If tax bills were mailed on or before December 31st then you must file for abatement by February 1st of the next year.
It is very important that you complete the application and include specific details. The Assessors will provide you with the appropriate forms to complete your application process.
It is a good idea to visit the assessor's office and do a comparison of your property to similar properties within your neighborhood. To start, request a printout of your property record card and verify that all the data is correct including land size, house style, size based on total square footage as measured using the outside dimensions of the structure, amenities such as fireplace, bathrooms, air conditioning, garages, attic and basement finished/unfinished, decks, porches, and etc. The more details you include with the application showing comparisons the better. With over three thousand property assessments it is possible for us to make mistakes. The key and most important factor is consistency throughout the town and more specifically within neighborhoods. Please keep in mind the new assessments are based on sales analysis of property sold during the preceding year.
The Board of Assessors is working for you. Please contact us with any questions at 508-529-1002. Our office is open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8 am to 4 pm, Tuesdays from 8 am to 6 pm, and Friday from 8 am to Noon. The Assessors are also available by appointment outside of office hours, at a mutually agreeable time.
Compare your value to similar properties in your neighborhood.
Land values can vary dramatically based on:
The following are some, but not all of the variables that affect value:
These are carefully analyzed based on:
The reason the total bill increases is because the town budget increases.
The tax rate is set as a direct result of Upton's town meeting process, so the voters decide if taxes go up. Individually, If the budget stays the same, some property owners will go up, some will go down, and some will stay just about the same.
The Town determines the amount of revenue (R) to be raised. The Town then totals all the assessments (A). The Town divides the revenue (R) by the Assessments (A) to get the actual tax rate: Tax Rate = R/A.
If the value of property decreases then the rate must increase to meet the budget. The opposite effect occurs when the values increase then the tax rate will decrease.
The town valuation is $5,000,000 and the town budget was $1,000,000. The tax rate is calculated by dividing the amount to be raised $1,000,000 by the Valuation divided by 1000 ($1,000,000 / (5000000/1000) equals a tax rate of $20.
If the valuation decreases and the budget stays the same then the rate increases.
If the Town valuation decreases to $4,000,000 and the town budget remains flat at $1,000,000. The tax rate is calculated by dividing the amount to be raised $1,000,000 by the Valuation divided by 1000 ($1,000,000 / (4000000/1000) equals a tax rate of $25.
If the valuation increases and the budget stays the same then the rate decreases.
If the Town valuation increases to $6,000,000 and the town budget remains flat at $1,000,000. The tax rate is calculated by dividing the amount to be raised $1,000,000 by the Valuation divided by 1000 ($1,000,000 / (6000000/1000) equals a tax rate of $16.66.
The tax rate is a result of the correlation of the total assessed value of all property in the town of Upton and the amount of money the town requires satisfying its budgetary commitments.
The State of Massachusetts offers a variety of exemptions for certain qualifying individuals, including elderly persons, blind persons, disabled veterans, a surviving spouse or orphaned minor child, a widow or orphaned minor of a police officer or fire fighter killed in the line of duty, and individuals with extreme medical and financial hardships. Exemptions are distinguished from abatements in that exemptions refer to the condition of a person, while abatements refer to an incorrect assessment of a property.
The qualifying date for all exemptions is July 1st, the first day of the Fiscal Year. Applications are due within ninety (90) days of the date of the postmark of the third quarter, or actual, tax bill. An additional qualification for all exemptions is ownership and occupancy of the property.
Because of the number and complexity of exemptions, the following information is intended to give you a general idea of what is available. If you suspect that you may be eligible for an exemption or have any questions, call the Assessor's Office at 508-529-1002.
Unlike a property exemption, the tax deferral is a program that allows a homeowner to defer the payment of their tax to a later date, typically when the owner passes away or sells the home. If you are 65 or older and have an annual income not exceeding $40,000 you may defer up to 100% of your annual property tax. The taxpayer must enter into a Deferral and Recovery Agreement with the Board of Assessors. A lien is placed upon the property, and deferred taxes accumulate with simple interest at 8%.
Beginning in Fiscal 2006, the Board of Selectmen adopted a program called the Property Tax Work-Off Program. This program allows older residents to reduce their property tax liability by up to $888 by volunteering to work in various departments of the Town. You must be aged 60 or older and possess the appropriate skill for the department requiring the assistance. If you think you might be interested in this program, contact the Council on Aging at 508-529-4558.
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 their website.
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.
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.
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.
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 percent, 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.
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.