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Assessors Frequently Asked Questions
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1.      What do the Assessors do?
The assessors are required by Massachusetts law to value all real and personal property within the town. They value every property from single-family residences to the largest commercial and industrial enterprises. Periodically, outside professional appraisers are used to assist with specialized assessments. Special assessing computer software is used to maintain values and assist with the multitude of calculations required in their work.

Every three years, the assessors must re-value all real and personal property and submit these values to the state Department of Revenue for certification. Assessors must also maintain the values in the years between certification. This is done so that each property taxpayer in the town pays his or her fair share of the cost of local government.

Assessors also have a responsibility for motor vehicle excise tax bills, originated by the State Registry of Motor Vehicles, and boat excise tax bills, generated at the local level. For motor vehicles, they update the bills to reflect recent changes and then pass them onto the Town Collector for distribution. For boat excise bills, they contact boat yards, marinas and the town's Harbormaster for listings of owners. Like the motor vehicle excise tax, lists are first generated, then bills are printed and passed to the Town Collector for distribution.  Assessors grant abatements and answer any questions regarding excise tax bills.

Assessors have a major role in promoting effective financial management in the town. By keeping values at the market standard, the assessors assist in maximizing the resources available to fund the municipal services expected by residents.


2.      How do Assessors determine value?
Valuation in Massachusetts is based upon "full and fair cash value",that is, the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller on the open market. Assessors must collect, record, and analyze a great deal of information about property and market characteristics in order to estimate the fair market value.

Assessors first inspect each property to record specific features of the land and building(s) that contribute to its value. Size, type and quality of construction, number of rooms, baths, fireplaces, type of heating system - all are examples of the data listed on individual property record cards. Once a house or business building is inspected, the assessor may not need to reinspect for another 6 to 9 years.

Finding the "full and fair cash value", or "market value" of a property involves discovering what similar properties are selling for, what the property would cost today to replace, and what financial factors, such as interest rates may be affecting the real estate market. Valuation techniques for commercial and industrial properties also include analysis from an investment point of view, since the purchase price the buyer is willing to pay depends in part on the return he or she expects to receive.

The assessors do not create value. Rather, they have the legal responsibility to discover and reflect the changes that are occurring in the marketplace.


3.      At what ratio is property assessed?
 100% of full and fair cash value

4.      What does full and fair cash value mean?
The courts have defined this phrase to mean "current market value"or the price arrived at by a willing buyer and a willing seller, each with good knowledge of the market and each acting without due pressure or compulsion. Thus, in determining value, assessors seek to approximate what property would sell for on the open market, within an acceptable range of error.

5.         Why do assessments change when nothing has happened to the property?
Since assessments must represent market value, rising and declining real estate values in
the town will be reflected in assessments. All properties, however, do not change in value
to exactly the same degree. Many factors influence values and the value of some properties
may be affected by the market more than others.


6.      When are real property tax bills mailed?
In Norton Tax bills are mailed twice a year. The quarterly tax payments are due on the following dates: August 1st, November 1st, February 1st, May 1st.
The bills are sent thirty(30)days prior to these due dates. Payments are due thirty days from the date the tax bill is issued.

7.         What is the currnet Fiscal Year Tax Rate?

        Residential: $13.54
        Commerical:$13.54

8.         Who is responsible for 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 taxes once the sale of the property is finalized. The amount of tax owed by the previous 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.

9.         Why is the former owner’s name still on my tax bill?
This often confuses new owners, but Chapter 59, Section 11, of the Massachusetts General Law reads, "Taxes on real estate shall be assessed, in the town where it lies, to the person who is the owner on January first......."
The tax bill will carry the January 1st owner(s) name throughout the entire subsequent fiscal year.  The former owners' name will be replaced by the new owner(s) name once the fiscal year has run its cycle.

10.     After a change in ownership, how do I correct the name(s) on my tax bill?
In order to change a name or trustee's name on a real estate tax bill, the Assessors' Office must receive a copy of a recorded deed or newly recorded trustee document filed at the Bristol County Registry of Deeds or Land Court.

In order to remove a decedent's name from a real estate tax bill, the Assessors' Office requires a recorded copy of a Death Certificate or Inheritance Tax Release of Lien.  If the ownership is held as Tenancy by the Entirety or Joint Tenancy, the decedent's name will be removed.  If the ownership is Tenancy in Common, the Assessors' Office will make the change once the probate has been finalized.

In the event your name has changed, please provide the Assessors' Office with the appropriately recorded document(s) from the Registry of Deeds or Land Court.

11.       How do I change my address for tax billing?

The Assessors' office in the community where the property is located must be notified in writing by the property owner in order to make this change.
        

12.     What should I do if I recently sold my property but I am still receiving a tax bill?
In most cases, if the deed has been recorded at least 6 weeks prior to the issue date of the tax bill, the new owner will also receive a copy of the tax bill. If you receive a bill within 6 weeks of the sale, please forward it to the new owner immediately.

        
13.     When do I file for overvaluation abatement?
You must file between January 1 and February 1 of the tax year or as stated on the tax bill.
However, you should ask yourself three questions before filing for
an abatement:
           Is the data on my property correct?
            Is my value in line with others on my street?
            Is my value in line with recent sale prices in my neighborhood?

The Assessing staff can assist you in determining whether your assessment is fair and equitable.


14.     Where do I file an abatement application?

You must file an application with the Assessors' Office.
        



 
            

 
                          


              

       
               
              


         









 
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