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The assessment is the value of property to be used for local taxation as determined by the Board of Assessors through a series of market analysis of the current Real Estate Market following regulations set by the Commissioner of Revenue. The assessment is the estimated full and fair cash value of a property on January 1st of a given year.
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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.
The amount of taxes you pay is determined by the appropriations voted at Town Meeting. The Town adopts a budget that reflects what services will be provided and the cost to provide those services. After Town Meeting adopts a budget, the amount of taxes to be raised is calculated in accordance with Proposition 2-1/2 and divided by the total taxable valuation of the Town to determine the projected single tax rate. The Board of Selectmen holds a public hearing to determine whether and how much residential tax will be transferred onto the commercial properties, commonly referred to as the split tax rate (commercial properties pay a higher tax rate than residential properties). All the information is forwarded to the Department of Revenue for its review and approval. The tax rates are then finalized to raise the needed dollars to pay for the services that the Town voted to provide.
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, 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.
In the Town of Milton, for new construction, or properties that have permit activity due to additions, pools, or any type of improvement to the property, the assessment is based upon the status of the property as of July 1st of any given year.
The Assessors Office conducts field inspections to collect and verify property descriptions and to identify all characteristics which might affect a property's value. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, land area and features, the size of the structure(s), the quality of materials and workmanship, building style and number of stories, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, heat source, and observed condition. The property's characteristics are used to calculate replacement cost and depreciation, plus land value, which are compared with similar market sales and adjusted to market value based upon prevailing price levels.
State law requires all properties to be assessed at market value as of January 1 each year. This does not mean that every property is physically inspected each year. Properties in the Town are required to be physically re-inspected at least every ten years. The purpose of this cyclical re-inspection is to ensure that the assessing department maintains an accurate and up-to-date description of all taxable property in Town, and to capture any unreported structures that may have been added since our last visit.
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 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.
State law requires the assessor to assess property at its "full and fair cash value" (market value) as of January 1 of the assessment year. This is defined as "the estimated price the property would bring in an open market and under the then prevailing market conditions in a sale between a willing seller and a willing buyer both conversant with the property and with prevailing general price levels."
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.
The most frequent reason for a change in value of a given property is a change in market conditions. This means a change in the supply or demand for real estate, which typically reflects broader trends in the local or regional economy such as employment levels, household income, inflation or deflation, prevailing interest rates, consumer confidence, or any number of other economic factors. Basically, a change in market conditions means a change in the price a seller would be willing to accept or the price a buyer would be willing to pay for a given property. The assessor continually tracks market conditions as reflected in real estate sales prices and overall price levels.