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Terms & References

Under the laws of the Commonwealth, all cities and towns must be certified to assess properties at their "full and fair cash value." The assessments contained herein are the result of a citywide reassessment program to comply with the "full and fair cash value" requirement.

The following terms and references are important when examining these assessment figures:

  1. Fiscal Year 2016 - Commencing July 1, 2015 and running through June 30, 2016, the fiscal year is the year for which the reassessment applies.
  2. Tax Date - The tax date or "assessment valuation date" is the January 1st preceding the fiscal year. For this reassessment, January 1, 2015 is the legal tax or assessment date. This means the values should represent the market value of the property based upon a theoretical sale date of January 1, 2015.
  3. Market Value - Market value is synonymous with "full and fair cash value." It is the desired result of a reassessment. If all taxpayers have their properties assessed at market value, there is an equal distribution of the tax burden. The assessments are certified by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to be at full value by examining market sales and conducting valuation audits. 2014 calendar year sales transactions are used to determine valuations as of the tax assessment date of January 1, 2015. Therefore, calendar year 2015 sales do not become relevant to the assessment process until next year, fiscal year 2017.
  4. Assessments, Taxes and Tax Rates - The assessment is the way in which property taxes are distributed. The assessment multiplied by the tax rate (often expressed as dollars per thousand) will determine the actual annual taxes for a property. The tax rate is established by determining the total tax levy. This is the budgeted amount to be raised from property taxes. It is established by the City Council in the budget process and is restricted by Proposition 2 ½. The tax rates for residential and commercial properties may be different and are also determined by the City Council. The City Council examines the total tax levy and the total taxable assessed values. It then determines the two tax rates: one for commercial, industrial and personal property taxpayers, and one for residential taxpayers.
  5. Proposition 2 ½ - Proposition 2 ½ limits the total amount of taxes that can be raised (2 ½% times the total assessed valuation) and the annual increase in total taxes that can be raised (the previous year tax levy + 2.5% more tax levy + new construction growth). Proposition 2 ½ does not limit the increase on an individual tax bill to 2 ½%. It limits the entire city as a whole from raising more than 2 ½% above the previous year's tax levy plus levy attributed to new construction growth. If a property changes in value relative to other properties, the taxes will change accordingly, perhaps increasing more than others or less so. Provided the assessed value is accurate, the taxes are regarded as fair, irrespective of the level of increase or decrease.
  6. Quarterly Taxes - Because the City of Worcester mails tax bills quarterly, the third quarter tax bill with the new assessment will show the new total tax for the property based upon the new assessment and the new tax rate. Also indicated on the bill will be a credit for the prior two quarterly payments billed in July and October. The change in taxes due to reassessment and a new budget year are reflected solely in the third and fourth quarters. The first two quarterly payments were billed on the basis of last year's taxes divided by four. For example, a taxpayer who paid $3,000 in taxes received two quarterly tax bills, each requiring a $750 payment. As an illustration only, assume the new assessment, new budget, and new tax rate yields a tax bill of $3,200. The third quarter bill will be $3,200 minus the first quarter $750 payment, minus the second quarter $750 payment for a balance due of $1,700. The balance is then paid as $850 for the third quarter payment due February 1st, and $850 for the fourth quarter payment due May 1st.
  7. Appealing Your Taxes - A taxpayer may request the Assessor to review an assessed value. The taxpayer may feel the assessment is in excess of market value (over assessed) as of the tax date or may feel the assessment is higher than a very similar property, and therefore "disproportionate." In either case, the taxpayer may request a review of the assessment only by filing the appropriate Application for Abatement (60KB) form with the Assessor. The taxpayer must file the form with the Assessor within thirty days of the mailing of the tax bill, but no later than the April 30th fourth quarter payment due date. The taxpayer must also provide evidence of disproportionate or excess assessment. Failure to do so will result in a denial of the request for lack of evidence.
  8. Statutory Exemptions - State law allows several categories of tax exemptions for elderly persons over age 70 (subject to asset and income restrictions), surviving spouse (subject to asset limitations), blind persons, and veterans with service related disabilities. Qualifying citizens must own their property in whole or in part and must apply annually. Taxpayers who receive an exemption apply in July, are approved by November and have an exemption certificate mailed just prior to the tax bill in December.
  9. More Questions? The Assessor's Office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM and may be reached at (508) 799-1098, or via email at
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