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Role and Responsibilities of the Tax Assessor
An Assessor's primary responsibility is to find the Fair Market Value of all real property within the town. This is done as of January 1 of each year. Valuation in Massachusetts is based on "full and fair cash" value, which is the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller on the open market. Assessors are required to submit values to the Department of Revenue, Bureau of Local Assessment, every three years for certification. In the years between certification, Assessors must also maintain the values.
An Assessor reviews sales and the overall market every year and thereby assesses value each year. By keeping pace with the real estate market on an annual basis, taxpayers will see the valuation of their property as current as possible -- and not only after a three-year time period. This is done so that the taxpayer pays only his fair share of the tax burden to cover the cost of local government in proportion to the amount of money that his property is worth. Property taxes are one of the major sources of funding for community services such as schools, fire and police protection, and the upkeep of roads. The main reason that values should reflect full and fair cash value annually is so that the property tax levy is fairly distributed.
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 which financial factors, such as interest rates, may be affecting the real estate market. The percentage change in each property owner's assessed value will differ according to structure, location, property size, etc. Factors which cause an increase in value include structural changes (new addition, garage), upgraded facilities (kitchen, bathroom), neighborhood or location factors, and market factors (supply and demand). In a revaluation there is not a uniform increase or decrease factor, because each property is affected differently by the factors mentioned.
It is important to understand that the Assessor does not create value. Rather, the Assessor has the legal responsibility to discover and reflect changes that are occurring in the marketplace.
Please be aware that not all classes of real estate appreciate at the same rate and that commercial and industrial property represents a different aspect of the market and are analyzed separately. There are typically fewer sales of commercial property to analyze, and the value will often be derived from other valuation approaches such as the Income Approach and Cost Approach. The Income Approach analyzes rents, vacancy, expenses and capitalization rates to arrive at a value based upon the anticipated rate of return of an investment. The Sales Comparison Approach is the most reliable in the valuing of residential property when there are sufficient sales to analyze. The Cost Approach can be the most reliable when the property is new construction or unique.
Valuation techniques for commercial and industrial properties also include analysis from an investment point of view, based on typical or economic/market income streams for each particular type of property. These income streams are the rents which are generated from the use of the property, as opposed to the revenue by the business enterprise using that real estate.
What the Assessors DO NOT Do
The Assessors do not raise or lower taxes. The Assessors do not make the laws which affect property owners and have nothing to do with the total amount of taxes collected. The Assessors set the tax rate each year. This rate is determined by all of the taxing agencies within the community and is the basis for the budget needed to provide municipal services. The tax rate is simply the rate which will provide funds for those services.
If your opinion of the value of your property differs from the assessed value, you can challenge your Assessment. You must collect pertinent data to support your opinion. The Assessor's Office will be glad to answer your questions about the procedures. Please remember you are appealing your assessment, not your taxes. You must pay your taxes, pending your appeal.
Please ask yourself these questions:
- Is my property data correct?
- Is my value in line with others on the street or in like neighborhoods?
- Is my value in line with comparable sale prices within my neighborhood?
Keep in mind these important factors: sale prices prior to the tax assessment date, age/overall condition, neighborhood, building area, lot size etc.
If, after researching the assessments of comparable properties within your area, a difference of opinion still exists, you may appeal your assessmen by filing an abatement application. In filing an abatement application you will want to be specific about why you disagree with your assessment. The application must be filed with the Assessors Office no later than February 1, or it must have a US Post Office postmark of no later than February 1.
If the Assessors do not grant an abatement, the taxpayer has the right to appeal to the Appellate Tax Board within a three-month period. When you receive you assessment denial notice, read it for instructions about deadlines and filing procedures. A missed deadline or incorrect filing can cause an appeal to be dismissed.
Wrentham is a community which issues quarterly tax bills (four total bills, two mailings per fiscal year). The 1st and 2nd quarter tax bills are preliminary based on the prior year's value and tax rates. The 3rd and 4th quarter tax bills are actual and are based on current values and tax rates. When making a comparision between years, please compare the actual tax bill from the prior year with the actual tax bill from the current year.
Please note that the FY2013 TAX or ASSESSMENT DATE is January 1, 2012 as it reflects each taxpayer's ownership status. In other words, each property is legally assessed to the owner of record as of January 1. Each property owner needs to be certain to receive his/her tax bill.
There are a variety of exemptions available for reducing the property tax for certain qualifying taxpayers: Elderly Persons, Blind Persons, Disabled Veterans, Surviving Spouses, Orphaned or Minor Children of a Police Officer or Fire Fighter killed in the line of duty.
Steven T. McCarthy, MAA
79 South Street
Wrentham, MA 02093
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday - 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
Tuesday - 8:00 am to 7:00 pm
Friday - 8:00 am to 12:00 noon
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