Under the laws of the Commonwealth, all cities and towns must be certified to assess properties at their "full and fair cash value." There are a few important terms to know when dealing with tax assessments.
The term "fiscal year" is the year for which the reassessment applies. Worcester's fiscal year begins July 1st and ends June 30th. Tax bills are issued quarterly on July 1, October 1, January 1 and April 1. The "tax date" or "assessment valuation date" is the January 1st preceding the fiscal year.
Market value, also known as "full and fair cash value," is the desired result of a reassessment. The assessments are certified by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to be at full value by examining market sales and conducting valuation audits.
A tax assessment follows three important steps:
There are four classes of property: Residential, Open Space, Commercial and Industrial.
FY 2018 Tax Rates:
Residential: $18.91 per $1,000 Assessed Valuation
Commercial: $34.03 per $1,000 Assessed Valuation
The City of Worcester issues real estate tax bills quarterly. The "preliminary" tax is calculated on the basis of the previous year's taxes divided by four. Preliminary tax bills are issued on July 1 and October 1. The "actual" tax is calculated from the new assessment and tax rate minus the preliminary tax divided by two. Actual tax bills are issued on January 1 and April 1. The change in taxes due to reassessment is reflected solely in the third and fourth quarters. Payments are due 30 days following the issue date.
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 Abatement Application form with the Assessor. The application for abatement must be filed (received by the Assessor) no later than thirty (30) days after the date on which the "actual" tax bill was issued. The taxpayer must also provide evidence of excess or disproportionate assessment. Failure to do so will result in a denial of the request for lack of evidence.
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. These exceptions are called "statutory exemptions." Qualifying citizens must own their property in whole or in part and must apply annually.
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.
Property is assessed at 100% of full and fair cash value.
New owners will be automatically updated by the Assessor's Office upon receipt of a copy of the recorded deed from the Registry of Deeds. If the sale is very close to a tax due date, you may call the Treasurer's Office at 508-799-1075 or email us for a remittance slip to be sent to you. You may also update the mailing address on the bill by filing out the online form. The Collector of Taxes is required by Massachusetts General Law to issue the bill to the assessed owner as of January 1. Therefore, the old owner and the new owner will receive a tax bill until the following January 1.
You may do so online. See Change Mailing Address for more information.
Go to the Property Records Search or, if you need certified owner information you can either (a) go in to the Assessor's Office for this information or (b) mail in a request for information, with an inquiry fee of $1.00 per parcel. All properties listed on the Assessing web site are sorted by street address, owners' name or by Map, Block and Lot number. Deeds showing ownership are available from the Worcester County Registry of Deeds.
It is the assessor's job to ensure that properties are assessed fairly. If your assessment is correct and your tax bill still seems too high, the assessor cannot change that. Complaints to the assessor should concern the assessment of your property, not the amount of your tax bill.
The tax rates for Fiscal 2018 are as follows: (per thousand)
The tax rates for Fiscal 2017 were as follows: (per thousand)
The amount of a particular property's tax bill is determined by two things: the property's taxable assessment and the tax rate. The assessment is determined by the assessor and should be based on the value of the property; the taxable value is the assessment less any applicable property tax exemptions. The single tax rate is determined by dividing the tax levy to be raised by the applicable total taxable assessed value of the jurisdiction. The tax levy is the revenue necessary for the city to operate, after all other revenue sources (like Federal and State funding) have been deducted from the budget. The rate is further apportioned between the Residential and Commercial classes by the vote of the City Council at the Tax Classification Hearing.
The tax rate is the result of dividing the tax levy, i.e., property tax budget, by the applicable total taxable assessments. For a Split rate, the percentage of the levy of that Class is divided by the total Taxable Assessed Value of the class.
If your taxes are escrowed by a bank or mortgage company, you will want to ensure that they make timely payment. Most banks and mortgage companies subscribe to a tax service that will notify them directly of the amount they need to pay for your taxes. However, if you have recently purchased, refinanced, or have a mortgage company that does not subscribe to a tax service, it will be up to you to notify them by forwarding your tax bill to them. DO NOT change your mailing address on your tax bill to be sent directly to the mortgage company. It will impede you from receiving proper notice of unpaid taxes. You may request that your mortgage company receive a duplicate tax bill if necessary by emailing us.
The courts have defined this phrase to mean "current market value," the price arrived at by a willing buyer and a willing seller, each with a good knowledge of the market and each acting without undue 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. The "current market value" is as of the valuation date usually the prior January 1.
The City Assessor is responsible for identifying, locating, and fairly valuing all property, both real and personal, within the city for tax purposes. The "market" value of real property is based on the real estate market as of the valuation date, typically the prior January 1. Finding the "market" value of your property means discovering the price most people would pay for your property in its condition as of July 1. Determining a fair and equitable value is the only role of this office in the taxing process.
What is important to remember is that the Assessor does not create the value. People determine the value by buying and selling real estate in the market place. The Assessor has the legal responsibility to study those transactions and appraise your property accordingly.
The Assessor also tracks ownership changes; maintains maps of parcel boundaries; keeps descriptions of buildings and property characteristics up to date; accepts and approves applications from individuals eligible for exemptions and other forms of property tax relief; and, most importantly, analyzes trends in sales prices, construction costs, and rents to best estimate the value of all assessable property.
All this must be done economically - for less than a tenth of what it would cost you to hire someone to independently appraise your property. A progressive computer assisted mass appraisal (C.A.M.A.) system is used by experienced appraisers to ensure that fair values are set for all property owners.
Appraisers are also assisted by our Geographic Information System (G.I.S.) which helps us to provide detailed and up-to-date property ownership maps for field inspections. The G.I.S. system is updated to reflect new changes to the land in the City of Worcester. This information is also used to analyze property data and gives appraisers yet another tool for comparing similar properties.
Tax payments must be received on or before the due date to avoid interest charges. If payment is not made within 30 days of the original date of mailing, the account will begin to accrue interest at the rate of 14% per annum, computed from the date the bill was due. A demand notice will be sent and a demand fee of $5.00 is charged against the account. If the account remains outstanding 14 days after the issuance of the demand notice, a warrant notice is sent. The warrant fee is $9.00. Please note that demand and warrant notices are sent only on the third and fourth quarter bills. If the account remains delinquent after June 30th of the fiscal year, a tax lien (a legal claim placed on property for debt) is placed on the property and is recorded with the Worcester County Registry of Deeds. In addition, the property is placed in the tax title system. A tax lien is the first step in the foreclosure process. All taxes, costs and interest must be paid to prevent foreclosure.
If your check is returned due to insufficient funds, absence of signature, or technical error, the account will have the same status as an 'unpaid' account. You will receive notice from the Collector of Taxes notifying you of the insufficient funds. As provided by law, a penalty charge of $25.00 or 1% of the amount of the check (whichever is greater) will be assessed to your tax account for each bad check received, in addition to any other fees and interest applicable. You will be required to make payment by cash, certified check, or money order within 10 days.
If you or your mortgage company have paid the tax bill and for some reason you receive a demand notice for non-payment of the tax due, you must provide proof of payment. Please call us at 508-799-1075 for the requirements.
A refund check is issued to a taxpayer who has a credit balance on their bill, provided that they supply the City with the proper information and they have no other outstanding taxes due and payable to the City.
The refund will usually be returned to the record owner. If the property has been sold during the fiscal year to a new owner, the date of transfer (deed date) and the information on the HUD Settlement Statement will determine who is eligible for the refund. If you have any questions, please email us.
If you feel the market value of your property is inaccurate or does not reflect fair market value, please contact the assessing division and file an abatement application during the month of January each year. The required Abatement Application form and documentation to support your value must be provided to the assessing division during the abatement period. If the office is unable to resolve the matter as to market value, you may file a petition for adjustment with the Appellate Tax Board.
The combination of the Map, Block and Lot (MBL) is a unique parcel identifier assigned to each individual property in the City of Worcester. For example, Map 02, Block 024 and Lot 00001 (referred to as MBL 0202400001) uniquely identifies the parcel located at 455 Main Street in Worcester.
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 as it is his/her responsibility to make payment. (M.G.L. Chapter 60, Section 3)
You should request a duplicate tax bill via email or by calling the Treasurer's Office at 508-799-1075 to request the form.
Tax bills are mailed four times 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.
The application for abatement must be filed (received by the Assessor) no later than thirty (30) days after the date on which the "actual" tax bill was issued. January 1st of each year is the scheduled issuance date of the "actual" tax bill.
However, you should ask yourself three questions before filing for an abatement:
The Assessing staff will be happy to assist you to determine whether your assessment is fair and equitable.
You can file an application with the Assessor's Main Office in Room 209, City Hall, 455 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01608. The abatement period is set by Massachusetts General Laws, as 30 days from the mailing of the Third Quarter actual tax bill, usually January 2 through February 2 each year.
Please send your payment and remittance slip to:
City of Worcester
PO Box 15602
Worcester, MA 01615-0602
Please make checks payable to: City of Worcester. If you do not have a remittance slip, for proper crediting, please write the parcel ID (Map, Block, Lot) on the check and include the property location and owner's name. To obtain a receipt, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope and both portions of the bill with the payment.
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.
Under state law, failure to receive a bill does not affect the validity of the tax or any interest or fines incurred due to late payment(s). It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to secure his/her tax bill when one is not received. You can request a duplicate tax bill via email or by calling the Treasurer's Office at 508-799-1075 to request the form. The Treasurer's Office will mail you a remittance slip on request. However, the request must be received early enough to allow sufficient time to avoid late charges.