Senate Passes Legislation on Property Tax Abatements

BOSTON-Today the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation providing for property tax breaks for numerous members of society including low-income seniors, veterans, and the disabled. The bill, S. 2124 An Act improving real property tax abatements, application deadlines, and deferrals, is sponsored by Senator Michael Brady (D-Brockton) Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on Revenue.  The bill incorporates legislation filed by Senators Creem, Jehlen, O’Connor-Ives, Rodrigues, and Tarr.

“I was proud to take my first vote as state Senator to decrease the tax burden on those in our society who are most in need – particularly military personnel, the disabled community, and our seniors,” said Senator Cindy Friedman (D-Arlington). “I’m grateful for my colleagues’ effort on this legislation as we continue to work toward improving the overall quality of life for our constituents.”

“A society is judged on how we treat our most vulnerable. Today’s legislation reduces the tax burden on our low-income seniors, the disabled, and our military service personnel,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).  “The Senate continues to look for ways to help those in need while balancing the needs of local communities to provide services to our residents.”

This important legislative package gives cities and towns more options to adjust property taxes to benefit seniors, deaf people, military personnel, and others.

This bill allows a city or town to expand the existing property tax deferral for senior citizens and for active military personnel. It includes the option to extend the time for higher interest payments.  The bill allows a city or town through local option to establish an interest rate on deferred taxes to less than 16% that would apply once the active military personnel or senior passes away or the property is sold.

It also authorizes a city or town through local option to extend the lower interest rate of 8% on deferred taxes for at least one year after the death of seniors or military personnel who were participating in a tax deferral agreement under Clause Forty-first A and Clause Eighteenth A in Section 5 of Chapter 59 of the Massachusetts General Laws. These clauses provide for local property tax exemptions for military service personnel and their spouses as well as low income seniors.

During the debate, the Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Senator Adam Hinds that increases the maximum amount for veterans under the volunteer service property tax reduction program from $1,000 to $1,500.

In addition, the foreclosure grace period from current 6 month window to a 1-year window. If after 1-year, the deferred tax amount has not been paid, the local treasurer may petition the Land Court to foreclose the lien on the property.

The bill also creates two new local option real property tax exemptions for deaf persons by providing an exemption of $5,000 of taxable valuation or $437.50 of actual taxes due, whichever is greater, or; provides an exemption of $500 of the actual taxes due. The taxpayer must own and occupy the property separately or jointly or as a tenant in common and must be a legal resident of the Commonwealth.

Finally, the bill improves the application deadlines for agricultural, horticultural, or recreational land. Currently, the reporting deadline for chapter land applications to apply to have land valued, assessed, and taxed as agricultural, forest or recreational land is October 1 which burdens farmers during the harvest season with paperwork that could be done at a later date.  This bill moves the deadline to December 1 and amends and aligns the appeals deadlines to ensure uniformity.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.