What is The Property Tax?
The major source of revenue for the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts is the property tax. In Berlin, approximately 76% of the revenue needed to run the government and schools is derived from the property tax.
The property tax is an “ad-valorum” (based on value) tax. The tax is apportioned to individual properties based on the value of the property.
In Massachusetts, estimates of value are called assessments. The assessment of a large number of parcels for property tax purposes constitutes a highly specialized field of appraisal. It is termed mass appraisal, and requires significant statistical analysis in order to develop accurate values.
In Massachusetts, the property tax, both real and personal property, is assessed to the person who is the owner of record on January first. Any ownership subsequent to that date can not be reflected on the tax bill.
In Berlin, the physical condition of real property on January 1st is the determining factor when establishing value for the fiscal year unless any new construction or updates has occurred, then the assessment date is June 30th. This was a local option acceptance of Mass General Laws at the May 4, 1992 Town Meeting – Chapter 653540 Acts of 1989, approved by Berlin voters.
Abatement Procedures: Reasons for an Abatement
- Overvaluation – you feel the assessed value is too high.
- Disproportionate Assessment – pertains to entire property classes, not an individual unit or development. For example, the residential class, as a whole, is assessed at 90% of fair market value, and the commercial class is assessed at 110% of fair market value.
- Improper Classification – for instance, a property is classified as commercial when it is actually residential. (Berlin has a split tax rate, therefore an incorrect classification could have an effect on the taxes that are assessed.)
- Statutory Exemption – the property is exempt from taxation based on use.
Who May Apply
As a rule, an application may be filed by the person to whom the tax has been assessed, or by the person acquiring title after January 1. The statutory abatement procedure is in force only after the Fiscal Years first half tax bill has been issued. This is usually October 1st, but may be mailed later in unusual circumstances.
Application forms are available at the Assessors Office, Municipal Building, 23 Linden Street, Berlin, MA. Our hours are Monday-Thursday, from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, or you can download one by clicking here.
The application for abatement must be filed no later than the due date of the First Half Tax Bill. This is usually November 1st, but may be later in unusual circumstances. You can check the website or call the Assessors office to confirm the due date.
The application must be filed with and received in the Assessors Office by the close of business on that day.
Payment of Tax
To avoid interest charges, the full tax due must be paid by the due date to the Berlin Tax Collector. Interest will be due if the payment is received late.
If the total tax on real estate is over $3,000, the tax must be paid by the date due in order to maintain the Right to Appeal an abatement decision of the Local Assessors Office. Such appeals are made to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board, an independent administrative board under the direction of the State government. Failure to pay in a timely manner jeopardizes your right to appeal.
Additional Information Request
The Board of Assessors is authorized, by state statute, to request information that is necessary to properly determine the fair cash value of the property. To preserve your right to appeal an abatement decision, you must provide all information requested by the Board of Assessors. Failure to respond to an information request, within thirty (30) days of the date on which the request was received, will result in a denial of the application and may bar an appeal to the Appellate Tax Board.
Action By the Board of Assessors
The Assessors Office attempts to process all abatement applications within three (3) months of filing. If they are not able to do this, there must be a formal agreement in writing to extend that date. You will be informed of the status of the application through the following notices:
- Notice of Approval. The Board of Assessors will abate the amount specified in the notice. If the tax has been paid, the Town will reimburse the taxpayer.
- Notice of Denial. No abatement will be granted. A denial will be issued in cases where the Board of Assessors has made a decision based on the merits of the abatement application; or deemed denied for reasons of inaction, in cases where the department has not made a decision on an abatement application within three (3) months of its filing date.
Appeal to the Appellate Tax Board
If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the Board of Assessors, you may file an appeal to the Appellate Tax Board. It is located on 100 Cambridge Street – Suite 200, Boston, MA 02114. The telephone number is 617-727-3100.
An exemption is a release from the obligation of having to pay taxes on all or part of a parcel of real property. Personal Exemptions are a reduction in taxes due to a particular personal circumstance and qualifications set forth in the Massachusetts General Laws. The burden is on the applicant to show that he or she falls within the expressed terms of the exemption provision.
Personal Exemptions must be filed no later than January 1st of each year or three months after the mailing of the first actual tax bill (usually October 1st), whichever is later.
Exemptions are granted for one year only. An application must be filed each year.
- Senior-Surviving Spouse or Minor-Veteran-Blind Exemption Form
- Financial Hardship Exemption Form
- Financial Hardship Deferral Form
Full or partial exemptions are provided in the General Laws for the following persons:
Clause 41C – Elderly
- Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for a Clause -41C exemption:
- Must be 65 years or older or joint owner with a spouse who is 65 years or older before July 1 of the tax year.
- Must own and occupy property on July 1 of the tax year.
- Also must have been continuously domiciled in Massachusetts 10 years prior to application and owned any property in Massachusetts for the preceding five years. Info passed@ Town Meeting.
- $20,000 if single
- $30,000 if married and Allowable assets $40,000 single, $55,000 married
- Exemption Amount: $1000
Surviving Spouse (Widow/Widower), Minor Child of a Deceased Parent, Clause 17D Elderly
- Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for a Clause -17D exemption:
- Must have Owned and occupied the property as of July 1 of the tax year.
- Applicants whole estate, excluding the value of the property, may not exceed $40,000
- For Surviving Spouse exemption, must provide death certificate for deceased spouse dated prior to July 1. This need only be provided the first year of application.
- Birth Certificate (Minor Child)
- For elderly exemption, must have reached the age of 70 prior to July 1 and have owned the property for at least five years.
- Exemption Amount: $175
Clause 37A – Blind
- Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for a Blind – Clause37A exemption: Must be declared legally blind as of July 1.
- Applicant must be registered with and obtain a certificate from the Massachusetts Division of the Blind as of July 1 or present a letter from their physician stating that the applicant was legally blind as of July 1.
- Must have owned and occupied the property as of July 1.
- Exemption Amount: $500.00
Clause 22 – Veteran with Service Connected Disability
- Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for a Veteran – Clause 22 exemption: At least 10% Wartime service connected disability.
- Owned and occupied the property as of July 1.
- Lived in Massachusetts 6 months prior to entering service or lived in Massachusetts for five consecutive years before filing for exemption. Must have certificate of disability from the Veterans Administration.
- Exemption Amount – varies with type of veteran’s exemption. Minimum $400 (most exemptions).
- Maximum $1500.
Clause 41A – Tax Deferral
- Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for a Tax Deferral – Clause 41:
- A tax deferral allows elderly taxpayers (over age 65), with annual incomes of less than $30,000 to defer payment on all, or a portion, of their property tax.
- This deferral is not an exemption.
- The amount of the deferral, together with 8% annual interest on the deferred amount, must eventually be repaid when the property is:
- Transferred or upon the death of the owner.
- The deferral becomes a lien on the property.
- A tax deferral should be considered when a taxpayer’s current
The application must be filed with the Assessors Office within three months of the date on which your 1st half bill was mailed, usually October 1st.
How to Apply for Personal Exemptions
Taxpayers have three months from the mailing date of the actual tax bill, usually October 1st, to file a Clause Exemption Application with the Assessors Office. Applicants should check the postmark of the bill envelope.
Taxpayers must pay the full amount indicated on this bill by November 1, even if they have an abatement application pending.
If their application is subsequently approved, the amount of the exemption will be credited to their 2nd half tax bill.
The voters of Berlin have approved an increase in the exemption amounts for qualifying individuals at town meeting with the acceptance of Mass General Law Chapter 126 of the Acts of 1988 amending Section 4 of Chapter 73 of the Acts of 1986. This grants an additional exemption of 100% of the approved exemption. This MGL must be approved each year at town meeting and can be increased, decreased, or eliminated. The additional amount is not reimbursed by the state, it is paid by local tax revenues through the overlay account.
A taxpayer may not receive more than one of these exemptions. If, however, taxpayers qualify for more than one of these exemptions, the Assessors will encourage them to apply for and receive the exemption that saves them the most money.
There are other more specific exemptions (for example, surviving spouse of police officers & fire fighters killed in the line of duty, and paraplegic veterans) for which the Assessors can provide information.