Frequently Asked Questions
TOPIC: Taxes, Excise and Billing
What does the Assessing Department do?
As the basis for apportioning the taxes that are raised by the Town, the Assessing Department is required by Massachusetts Law to maintain detailed records describing the real estate and personal property within the town and to manually arrive at a professional estimate of its full current market value. On every third year, the methods used in arriving at these estimates of current market value, are reviewed in detail and certified by the State Department of Revenue. In addition to assessing approximately 9,000 parcels of real property and 1,000 personal property accounts, the Assessing Department annually assesses 15,000 motor vehicle excise accounts and 1,500 boat excise accounts.
How is my assessment determined?
To arrive at "full and fair cash value" for your property, the assessors must know what "willing sellers" and "willing buyers" are doing in the marketplace. The Assessors also must collect, record and analyze a great deal of information about property and market characteristics in order to estimate the fair market value, including keeping current on cost of construction in the area and any changes in zoning, financing and economic conditions which may effect property values. The Assessors uses three standardized appraisal approaches to value: market, cost and income. This data is then correlated into a final value. The object of the valuation program is to estimate: "reasonable cash value" as of January 1 (known as the "assessment date") prior to the fiscal year. For example, the assessment date for fiscal year 2010 is January 1, 2009.
What is Proposition 2 ½?
Proposition 2 ½ places constraints on the amount of taxes, which the Town can levy and on how much the Town can increase the tax levy from year to year. It provides the Town with annual increases in its tax levy of: 2.5 percent and an additional amount based on the valuation of certain new construction and other allowable growth in the tax base ("new growth"). With Proposition 2 ½, a minimum 2.5 percent increase in the Town's total tax levy can be expected each year.
What if I disagree with the assessment of my property?
If your opinion of the value of your property differs from the assessment value, by all means come to the Assessors Office and discuss the matter. The staff will be glad to answer your questions about the assessment procedures. When questioning the assessment value, ask yourself three questions:
- Is my property description data correct?
- Is my assessed value in line with others on the street?
- Is my assessed value in line with sale prices in my neighborhood?
Keep in mind what's important: sale prices, quality of construction, condition, your property's neighborhood designation, and the building area and lot area. These are the most critical factors in the valuation process. There is a variety of information available to help you determine whether your Assessment is fair and equitable. The staff will be happy to assist you, and no appointment is necessary. If, after discussing the matter with the staff and researching the assessments of comparable properties within your area, a difference of opinion still exists, you may appeal your assessment to the Board of Assessors by filing an abatement form.
Is the abatement application period the same as the third quarter tax payment period?
The period during which you must pay your third quarter actual tax bill extends from the date the tax bills are issued until they are due. This is usually February 1st. If the application is mailed, the postmark must be on or before the due date. Abatement applications filed after this date and time cannot, by law, be acted upon by the Board of Assessors
If you wish to file for abatement, please come by the Assessors Office and pick up an application as soon as you receive your bill. Applications cannot be submitted until after the tax bills are mailed. When filing for an abatement, remember that you are appealing your assessment and not your taxes.
*You must pay your taxes pending your appeal.
The application form is easy to fill out and the information you provide can be brief. But it is important to make a case to support your claim. That is, you need to provide reasons why you feel your assessment is out of line. For example, this can be done by pointing out errors in your property description; and/or by citing recent sales or other specific concerns and comparisons.
Have you refinanced or purchased the property within the last year? It may help speed the abatement process to submit a copy of the report, usually done through a bank or Mortgage Company.
- If your Abatement is denied: you will receive a notice indicating your application was denied. You may appeal to the State Appellate
Tax Board (ATB) within 90 days of the Assessor's decision.
- If your Abatement is approved: you will receive a letter indicating the amount of the abatement.
What type of exemptions (reductions from real estate taxes) does the Town of Scituate offer?
A variety of exemptions are available under Massachusetts Law to reduce property tax obligations for certain qualifying taxpayers: elderly persons, blind persons, disabled Veterans, surviving spouse or orphaned minor child, widow or orphaned minor of Police or Firefighter, and extreme hardship. Exemptions are distinguished from abatements in that exemptions refer to the person while abatements refer to the property.
The qualifying date is July 1, the first day of the fiscal year. When the third quarter actual tax bill is sent to taxpayers in late December, applications are due within 90 days of the postmark date.
If you have the slightest suspicion you may be eligible or have any questions, call the Assessors Office to discuss details. Note: that certain income limits include deductions (Clause 41C) and asset limits do not include the value of owner occupied condominiums, and 1, 2, 3 family houses. Certain exemption applications will require a copy of the tax forms filed in the last calendar year, or a statement indicating that the applicant(s) does not file tax forms. The number of owners of the property also falls into the review of qualification, which may mean non-eligibility of the exemption, a pro-rated, or a full exemption.
How much does a municipal lien certificate (MLC) cost?
The cost of an MLC is $50.00, and a self-addressed stamped envelope is required. It must be noted on the request whether or not the information is needed for a sale, refinance, or foreclosure.
I am the new owner of a property in Scituate, and want to know why my name is not on the bill or I sold my property in Scituate, and I am still receiving a tax bill?
MA General Law requires that tax bills be sent to owners of record on January 1st for the fiscal year that runs from 7/1-6/30 annually. The Assessing Department enters deed information during the year that'll become effective as of 7/1 in the next fiscal year. New owners (also known as subsequent owners) sometimes have their name added onto the tax bill below the 1/1 owner's name depending upon the timing of the sale.
Can the fees, and interest be waived on my tax bill since I never received a bill?
It is the obligation of the taxpayer to seek out a bill if one is not received; fees, and interest will not be waived. The Town is not responsible for bills lost in the mail.
When will I receive my vehicle excise or boat tax bill?
The Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) sends the Town billing files periodically throughout the calendar year. However, the majority of Scituate-registered vehicle excise bills are typically mailed out in February from a January RMV file. Boat excise bills are mailed out in November to the bulk of boat owners with a couple of smaller billings done later in the winter months.
How much do I owe on my taxes, excise, etc.?
The Treasurer/Collector's office does not provide verbal quotes. Faxed requests can be sent to 781-545-0696 with responses provided within the 10-day period required by the Public Records Law. Taxpayers are welcome to visit the office during regular business hours for the information, or email requests to the staff via the Treasurer/Collector's section on the Town's website (www.town.scituate.ma.us).