Real Estate Property Tax FAQ
Assessors Frequently Asked Questions
What are Property (Real Estate) Taxes?
The major source of revenue for the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts is the property tax. The property tax is an "ad valorem" (based on the value) tax. The tax is apportioned to individual properties based on the value of the property. In Massachusetts, estimates of the value are called assessments. The assessments of a large number of parcels for property tax purposes constitute a highly specialized field of appraisal. In Massachusetts, the property tax is assessed on real and personal property to the owner of record as of January 1.
How are values determined?
The Assessors determines the market value of each and every parcel of property in the city as of each January 1. There are three approaches to value: market, income and cost.
Market sales of similar properties that sold in the year prior to January 1 are analyzed, compared and adjusted to forecast what the property would sell for on January 1st. Most residential property is valued by the market approach.
The income approach is applicable to real estate that is normally bought and sold on the basis of its income-producing capacity. The approach requires significant data such as rents, occupancy rates, operating expenses, and investor requirements. The approach is most useful in valuing investment property where sufficient market sales are not available.
The cost approach involves as estimate of the current reproduction or replacement cost of the building, deducting an estimate of depreciation (or loss of value from any cause) then adding an estimated value of land. The cost approach is most applicable to special-purpose properties that are not readily sold or rented.
How is the tax rate determined?
The tax rate for residential property is determined by taking the residential share of the property tax levy (the amount of the total tax dollars to be paid by residential owners) and dividing that amount by the total assessed value of all residential properties. The same procedure is also used to determine the tax rate for commercial/industrial and personal property owners.
Prior to the Classification Amendment of 1978, there was just one tax rate for all properties. Classification allows for the shifting of a portion of the tax burden of residential property onto commercial/industrial and personal property.
When are real property tax bills mailed and payments due?
The City of Springfield employs a Quarterly tax billing system. Tax bills are mailed four times a year.
1st Quarter - July 1st
2nd Quarter - October 1st
3rd Quarter - January 1st
4th Quarter - April 1st
The bills are sent thirty (30) days prior to the dates they are due. The quarterly tax payments are due thirty days from the date the tax bill is issued on the following dates:
1st Quarter - August 1st
2nd Quarter - November 1st
3rd Quarter - February 1st
4th Quarter - May 1st
What should I do if I recently sold my property, but I am still receiving a tax bill?
If you receive a bill, please forward it to the new owner immediately as it is his/her responsibility to make payment.
NOTE: You should NOT attempt to inform the City of a change by sending a tax bill with the previous owner's name crossed out and the new owner's name written in.
The Assessors and Collectors Office is required by Massachusetts General Law to bill the assessed owner as of January 1, and MUST issue the bill of the same fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) to the owner as of January 1.
The name will automatically change on the next fiscal year bill, which begins July 1st.
Who is responsible for the taxes if a property is sold after January 1?
Although the tax bill will bear the name of the assessed owner as of January 1, the new owner is responsible for all the taxes once the sale of the property is finalized. The amount of tax owed by the old owner is determined at the time of closing and is typically deducted from the selling price. Once this deduction is made, the new owner must pay all bills, as they become due in order to avoid collection actions, including foreclosure. The lawyers assisting each party should already have investigated any outstanding taxes and obtained a Municipal Lien Certificate (Collectors). Once the agreement is made, the new owner is obligated to pay any outstanding taxes due on the property.
Why should I pay interest on a late payment when I never received my tax bill?
Under state law, failure to receive a bill does NOT affect the validity of the tax or any interest or fines incurred due to late payments.
It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to secure his/her tax bill when one is not received. You can request a Duplicate Tax Bill by contacting Springfield 311 online or by dialing 3-1-1 (413-736-3111 outside of Springfield).
Actual duplicate bills are sent via regular mail or may be picked up in person at the Collectors office in City Hall. Please allow ten business days to receive the duplicate bill and you should allow sufficient time to avoid late charges. It would be helpful to have the City's STREET and PARCEL code for the property on hand when you make your request.
What is an abatement?
An abatement is a reduction of property tax. It may be based on a reduction in the assessed value of taxable property, or a parcel may be exempted completely from the property tax based on use (a church, for example).
A taxpayer must apply for an abatement for each specific year in which there is a dispute. An application cannot be filed on taxes from previous years.
Abatement applications MUST be filed no later than February 1st. Applications for abatement may be obtained at the Assessors Office and are available ONLY after the third quarter bill has been issued. Applications should NOT be included with any payment of taxes and must be addressed to:
36 Court Street
Springfield, Massachusetts 01103
Taxpayers who mail their applications are strongly urged to allow sufficient time for the application to reach the Assessors Office before the filing deadline.
The Assessors Office does accept signed facsimile applications at 413-787-7721.
Applications sent via mail must be postmarked by the United States Postal Service no later than the deadline date.
No abatement can be granted unless the application is filed on time.
What are the requirements for an abatement of real property taxes?
A taxpayer may contest his or her tax liability on specific grounds:
Overvaluation - the assessed value is too high.
Disproportionate Assessment - (pertains to entire property classes, not any individual unit or development).
Improper Classification - for instance, a property is classified as commercial land when it is actually residential land.
Statutory Exemption - the property is exempt from taxation based on use.
What information will be requested when I file an abatement application?
The Assessors are authorized by law 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 information about and/or access to your property for inspection. The failure to provide the information requested may result in a denial of the application and may bar an appeal to the Appellate Tax Board.
When will I hear from the Assessors about my overvalue application?
The Assessors have ninety (90) days from the date the overvaluation application is filed to make a decision. Taxpayers will be notified, in writing, of the Assessors decision. Filing of an application does not postpone the collection of the tax, and the taxpayer should pay the taxes to avoid interest and penalties and to preserve their appeal rights. If an abatement is granted, a refund from the Treasurer/Collectors Office will be issued.
Can I appeal a decision from the Assessors?
Taxpayers may appeal the Assessors decision by filing with the Appellate Tax Board (ATB) within 3 months of the Assessors decision. Filling fees with the ATB may apply. Taxpayers should contact the Appellate Tax Board directly to request forms and/or questions about the appeal process.
The Appellate Tax Board can be reached at:
Appellate Tax Board 100 Cambridge Street Boston, Massachusetts 02108