A: In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, property tax bills are abated through a two stage process. The first stage is the timely filing of a proper abatement application, complete with supporting data, with the local assessor. The assessor then has ninety days to take action on the application for abatement. If no action is taken within the ninety day period, the application is "deemed denied" by operation of law. The second stage, for applications which are denied or deemed denied, is an appeal to the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board ("ATB"). The ATB is a state administrative agency which oversees the property tax abatement decisions of local assessors.
Q: How does one qualify for an abatement?
A: The local assessor may grant a property tax abatement if the owner can establish that the property in question has been assessed for more than the fair market value of the property as of the assessment date. In addition, the owner must pay the property tax bill and file the abatement application in a timely fashion. See "Ten Question To Ask Before Paying Your Next Property Tax Bill" which illustrates ten possible clues that a property has been be over-assessed.
Q: How long does the abatement process take?
A: All abatement applications must be filed within the time period stated on the actual tax bill. Under state law, taxpayers have until the due date for payment of the tax bill in which to file an abatement application. Once the application is filed, the local assessor has ninety days to act on the application. If the application is denied or deemed denied, the taxpayer then has ninety days to file an appeal to the Appellate Tax Board. Once the appeal is filed, the matter is eventually marked up for a hearing, which can take over a year.
Q: Is there a cost to file an abatement application?
A: In Massachusetts, there is no filing fee or cost to submit a property tax abatement application with the local assessor. A small fee may be charged to evaluate the property's value. However, once Ridgefield Valuation determines that the property is a strong candidate for abatement, it provides all the necessary services, including preparation of the application, negotiation and follow up until you receive the abatement check(s) or credit, on a contingent-fee basis. This means that Ridgefield is paid out of the tax savings, if and only if the owner receives an abatement. There is, however, a filing fee, and some potential cost to file an appeal to the Appellate Tax Board. However, in the event that an appeal is necessary, the potential of the case can be discussed to ensure that an appeal is cost- effective.
Q: What is the contingent fee charged for your services?
A: Ridgefield Valuation charges a 35% contingent fee, covering the years remaining in the revaluation period. This fee is discounted, however, for property owners with larger properties, multiple properties, and for those owners who contact us well in advance of receipt of the actual property tax bill. Note: Although representation before the local board of assessors is done on a contingent fee basis, a small fee may apply in order to evaluate the market value of certain properties to determine if they are strong, cost-effective candidates for abatement.
Q: I'm interested! What do I do next?
A: Contact us at 1-800-628-3023 (781-893-9300 for local service) and ask for Robert Gaines. He will answer any remaining questions you might have, then send you the materials to enable Ridgefield Valuation to evaluate your property as a candidate for a property tax abatement. It is best to contact us well before the tax bills are mailed to give us sufficient lead time to do prepare your case. So call today!