Your Real Estate Tax Bill Document

The layout, wording, and timing of your real estate bill are stipulated by Massachusetts Statute. Not surprisingly, over the years, it has evolved into a complicated document crammed with important information. Hopefully, the following will clarify the process.

Some basics:

  • The Town starts its fiscal year 6 months before the calendar year starts, i.e. July 1st of 2015 is the first day of the Town's 2016 Fiscal Year.
  • We pay our taxes 4 times a year (quarterly) August 1st, November 1st, February 1st and May 1st (excepting Sundays).
  • Your payment is considered "received" when it is delivered to the tax office, not when postmarked.
  • The first two quarters (August and November) are called "preliminary" bills because they are only "estimates" of half of the taxes that will be due for the year.
  • Each of the two quarterly "preliminary" bills is simply the total prior fiscal year's tax bill divided by 4.
  • In late November, the Assessors calculate the tax rate. This takes place only after all town meetings and budget appropriations have been made. (The State Legislature must have approved their budget as well).
  • The third and fourth quarter bills are the "actual" bills showing the total tax due for the year minus any payments applied prior to their printing. Liens (unpaid water/sewer bills) are also applied at this time.
  • The consequence of the foregoing staggered billing is that the first two bills are usually lower than the final two bills. Keeping this in mind, it would therefore be incorrect to take your third or fourth payment due, multiply it by four and think that was the total year's taxes.
  • Do you want to check the real estate portion for your bill? Multiply the valuation in thousands by the tax rate. (The Fiscal Year 2017 tax rate is $18.16) Community Preservation Act (CPA) at an adjusted 3% is added to the total tax due.
  • Federal/state tax note: your "calendar" year real estate taxes paid are made up of the 3rd and 4th quarter taxes in one fiscal year plus the 1st and 2nd quarter taxes of the following fiscal year. (If paid when due).
  • Exemption renewals must be completed by February 1st.

The tax form itself has a few things worth mentioning. We mail bills twice a year. Each mailing has two billing periods, each with a tear-away section plus a record for the taxpayer. On the reverse side of the taxpayer's copy are the rules governing payment and, most importantly, abatement procedures. The deadline for application for abatement is February 1st. Once February 1st passes, the assessors are not allowed to grant abatements.