As used in the context of real estate taxes, an exemption is a release from the obligation to pay all or a portion of the taxes assessed on a parcel of property. Exemptions are conferred by the state legislature (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 59, Section 5) on particular categories of persons, for their primary domicile and subject to certain qualifications. Exemptions are not abatements in that they do not affect the valuation of property, but simply reduce the taxes owed.
Applications are available from the Assessors’ office. An application must be filed with the Assessors each year by April 1st or within three months of the mailing of the actual tax bill, whichever is later. It is at that time that the exemptions will be processed. The filing of the exemption application does not stay the collection of the tax, which should be paid as assessed. An exemption even if received in prior years is not automatically conferred but must be specifically acted upon by the Board of Assessors. The Assessors’ action is discretionary insofar as they determine that an applicant, according to the documentation he or she provides, does or does not meet the eligibility requirements. Notice of the Assessors’ action will be sent to each applicant.
As exemptions are granted only for the primary residence, and as some exemptions are age dependent and / or means tested, an applicant must provide whatever information the Assessors deem to be reasonably required to establish eligibility. The information that an applicant may be requested to furnish includes, but is not limited to: (1) birth certificates, (2) evidence of domicile and occupancy, (3) income tax, (4) bank statements.
CLAUSE 17E - Surviving Spouse/Minor Child/Elderly Person
Amount: UP TO $500.14 for fiscal year 2015
Eligibility: As of July 1 of the tax year, an individual must be either (1) a surviving spouse or surviving minor child who owns and occupies the property as his or her domicile; or (2) a person at least 70 years old who has owned and occupied the property as his or her domicile for at least five preceding years.
Income: There are no income guidelines for Clause 17E.
Whole Estate: The applicant’s whole estate (cash, bank balances, stocks, bonds, some types of personal property, etc.) excluding the value of the domicile (up to three living units) cannot exceed $57,160. for fiscal year 2015. Click here for an application PDF format
CLAUSE 22 - Veterans
Amount: UP TO $800 to a full exemption, depending on the nature and extent of the disability.
Eligibility: As of July 1 of the tax year, an individual must have lived in Massachusetts for at least the five preceding years or must have been domiciled in Massachusetts for at least six months prior to entering the service and must either be either (1) a veteran or a spouse of a veteran who has a service connected disability of at least 10% (as verified by the veterans administration); or (2) a veteran or spouse of a veteran who was awarded a purple heart / silver star; or (3) the parent of a serviceman who lost his or her life during wartime.
Income: There are no income guidelines for Clause 22.
Whole Estate: There are no whole estate guidelines for Clause 22.
CLAUSE 37A – Blind Persons
Amount: UP TO $1000
Eligibility: As of July 1 of the tax year, an individual who is blind must own and occupy the property as his or her primary domicile. A certificate of blindness from the Commissioner for the Blind must be provided annually with the application for exemption.
Income: There are no income guidelines for Clause 37A.
Whole Estate: There are no whole estate guidelines for Clause 37A. Click here for an application PDF format: http://www.mass.gov/dor/docs/dls/publ/forms/blind-96-3.pdf
CLAUSE 41D – Elderly
Amount: UP TO $2000
Eligibility: As of July 1 of the tax year, an individual must be at least 65 years old, must have owned and occupied the property for at least the five preceding years, and must have lived in Massachusetts for at least the ten preceding years.
Income: The applicant’s gross receipts from all sources in the year preceding the application cannot have exceeded $25,486, if single; $38,229 if married. (For fiscal year 2015)
Whole Estate: The applicant’s whole estate, excluding the value of the domicile (up to three living units) cannot exceed $50,972 if single; $70,087, if married. (For fiscal year 2015)
Available for a surviving spouse of a police officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty.
Available for minor children of a police officer or a firefighter killed in the line of duty.
CLAUSE 18 – Hardship
Persons who, because of their age, financial condition and physical infirmity feel they cannot contribute fully to the payment of their property taxes, may request consideration by the Board of Assessors in the form of a Clause 18 exemption. The decision to grant a Clause 18 exemption is made solely at the discretion of the Board of Assessors. Click here for a hardship application PDF format
CLAUSE 41A – Tax Deferral
Amount: Any or all of the taxes assessed may be deferred (not exempted), with interest, until such time as the property is sold or transferred, or until the demise of the owner, at which point the taxes and interest must be paid. The cumulative total of the taxes deferred cannot exceed 50% of the applicant’s share of the assessed value of the property. Entry into tax deferral creates a lien on the property, which is recorded by the Town at the Registry of Deeds.
Eligibility: As of July 1 of the tax year, an applicant must be at least 65 years old.
Income: The applicant’s gross receipts from all sources in the year preceding the application cannot have exceeded $55,000 (FY 2015).
Whole Estate: There are no whole estate guidelines for Clause 41A.
With the exception of Clause 41A (tax deferral) and Clause 18 (hardship) it is not possible to receive the benefit of more than one exemption in the fiscal year.