Q: What is an abatement?
A: 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 ownership and use (a church, for example). A taxpayer must apply for abatement only for the current fiscal year and only if there is a dispute concerning the property valuation or the property classification. An application cannot be filed on taxes from previous years.
Q: What are the requirements for an abatement of real property taxes?
A: A taxpayer may contest his or her tax liability on specific grounds:
- Overvaluation – the taxpayer disagrees with the assessors' appraisal of the fair cash value of the property or believes the valuation reflects a data or other error.
- Disproportionate Assessment – the taxpayer believes that the property is valued at a higher percentage of fair cash value than other properties due to an intentional, discriminatory assessment policy.
- Misclassification of Real Property – the taxpayer believes the property is not properly classified and the community has multiple tax rates e.g., the property should be classified as residential, not commercial, and be taxed at the lower residential rate.
Statutory Exemption – the taxpayer believes an exemption applies based on the ownership or use of the property.
Q: What are the procedures for filing for an abatement?
A: The FY 2013 Application for Abatement is available immediately following the issuance of the (first actual bill) which usually is the 3rd quarter FY 2013 tax bill.
The FY 2013 application for Abatement of Real Estate Tax form is due no later than February 1, 2013.
You can download an abatement form here reppabate.pdf
NOTE: If you choose to mail your abatement application, it must bear a U.S. postmark dated NO LATER THAN the deadline date. The assessor cannot waive this deadline and will not grant an abatement for forms received or post marked after the deadline date.
Q: How are values determined?
A: The Assessor determines the market value of every parcel of property in a city or town as of each January 1. There are three approaches to value: market, income, and cost.
- Market Approach: This method analyzes recent commercial and industrial sales to develop units of value. These unit values may then be applied to comparable non-sold properties. Sales from surrounding communities with comparable property bases and market influences may also be used for analytical purposes. Most residential property is valued by the market approach.
- Income Approach: This method requires the assessor to estimate the rental income from a property and capitalize that income into an estimate of current value. The approach recognizes that potential buyers demand property because they anticipate a future income stream. Assessors should collect current information on a community and regional level about rents, income, expenses, financing rates and terms and other data needed to develop capitalization rates. The approach is most useful in valuing investment property where sufficient market sales are not available.
- Cost Approach: This method calculates the current cost to replace the building, adjusts for depreciation due to age or condition and adds a separately determined land value. The cost approach is most applicable to special-purpose properties that are not readily sold or rented.
Q: What is Classification?
A: In 1978 the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted a Constitutional amendment authorizing the General Court to classify real property into as many as four classes (residential, open space, commercial, and industrial) and to tax such classes differently. The Department of Revenue supervises the implementation of property classification. In Agawam, the determination to allocate the tax burden by class is made annually by the Town Council, with the approval of the Mayor.
Q: What are the classes of property?
A: Assessors in Massachusetts assign all real property according to its use. The four classes are: Residential, Open Space, Commercial, and Industrial. Personal Property constitutes a separate class. (See “What is Personal Property?”)
- Residential: All real property used or held for human habitation containing one or more dwelling units including rooming houses with facilities assigned and used for living, sleeping, cooking and eating on a non-transient basis, and including a bed and breakfast home with no more than three rooms for rent. Such property includes accessory land, buildings or improvements incidental to such habitation and used exclusively by the residents of the property or their guests. Such property shall include: (i) land that is situated in a residential zone and has been subdivided into residential lots, and (ii) land used for the purpose of a manufactured housing community, as defined in Chapter 140, §32F. Such property shall not include a hotel or motel.
- Open Space: Land which is not otherwise classified and which is not taxable under the provisions of Chapter 61, 61A, or 61B, or taxable under a permanent conservation restriction, and which land is not held for the production of income but is maintained in an open or natural condition and which contributes significantly to the benefit and enjoyment of the public.
- Commercial: All real property used or held for use for business purposes and not specifically included in another class, including but not limited to any commercial, business, retail, trade, service, recreational, agricultural, artistic, sporting, fraternal, governmental, educational, medical or religious enterprise for non-profit purposes.
- Industrial: All real property used or held for use for manufacturing, milling, converting, producing, processing, extracting or fabricating materials unserviceable in their natural state to create commercial products or materials; the mechanical, chemical or electronic transformation of property into new products and any use that is identical to or an integral part of such use, whether for profit or non-profit purposes; property used or held for uses for the storage transmitting and generating of utilities.
Q: What should I do if I recently sold my property, but I am still receiving a tax bill?
A: If you receive a bill, please forward it to the new owner immediately as it is his/her responsibility to make payment. Otherwise the bill can be forwarded back to the Collector's Office, Town of Agawam, 36 Main St., Agawam, MA 01001.
Q: Who is responsible for the taxes if a property is sold after January 1?
A: Although the tax bill will bear the name of the assessed owner as of January 1, the new owner is responsible for all 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. Once the agreement is made, the new owner is obligated to pay any outstanding taxes due on the property.
Q: How do I change my tax bill mailing address?
If you have a new address and want your bill mailed there permanently, you can request a Change of Tax Bill Mailing Address Form by calling the Assessor’s Office at 786-0400. Fill out the form have all owners of the property sign the form and return it directly to the Assessor’s Office, 36 Main St., Agawam, MA 01001. Also, you can obtain the Change of Tax Bill Mailing Address form by clicking HERE.
Q: How can I change the tax bill to my name after purchasing a parcel of property?
A: The Collector’s 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 change automatically on the next fiscal year bill. If, after the passage of time, the name still is not changed on the bill, please contact the Assessor’s Office at 786-0400.