Real Estate & Personal Property Taxes
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, all real estate and personal property taxes are assessed on a fiscal year basis. The fiscal year runs from July 1st through the following June 30th. The Town of Seekonk uses the quarterly method of collection for real estate and personal property tax bills.
On June 30 of each year, Preliminary tax bills are mailed to taxpayers. The Preliminary bills are based upon the prior year's tax obligation, taking into consideration any betterments that increased the bill and any exemptions or abatements which would have reduced it. The base amount of the Preliminary bill is 50% of this prior year total. The Board of Assessors may, at its discretion, adjust this amount to reflect any known imminent tax increase, such as a new debt exclusion or prop 2½ override. This final amount is then divided in half, with the first half being due on August 1 and the second half due on November 1.
By state law, Preliminary tax bills cannot show either a valuation for the property or a tax rate. Likewise, elderly and veterans exemptions will not be on these bills.
The bill form is one 8½ by 11 sheet divided into three parts. The bottom section should be remitted with your August 1 payment, and the middle section should be remitted with your November 1 payment. The top section is for your records.
Any amount that is not paid by the appropriate due date is then subject to 14% interest per annum from the due date to the date of payment. Interest accrues daily.
On December 31, Actual tax bills are mailed. The Actual tax bill is based upon the tax rate for that particular year multiplied by the parcel (or personal property) valuation. The amount that had been previously billed as Preliminary tax is then subtracted from that total and the resulting balance is divided in half. The first half of the Actual tax bill is due on February 1 and the second half on May 1.
Actual tax bills must show the value of the parcel or personal property, as well as the tax rate. They are also required to show the last date in which one may apply for an abatement, which, by statute, is February 1.
Any unpaid balance on the Preliminary bill will also be reflected on the Actual bill, and the interest line will show the amount of interest that will accrue on this overdue balance to the next due date, February 1.
Payments not made by the appropriate due dates are again subject to interest at 14% per annum.
Like the Preliminary bill, the format of the Actual bill is an 8½ by 11 sheets which is divided into three parts. The bottom section should be remitted with your February 1 payment and the middle section with your May 1 payment. The top section is for your records.
Any balance on the bill which remains unpaid after May 1 is subject to a statutory Demand charge, which is a flat $10 per bill, regardless of the amount that remains unpaid and overdue. Demand bills are usually sent between May 10 and May 25 each year. Demands are due 14 days from date of issue.
Real estate taxes which remain unpaid after the issuance of a Demand bill are subject to the following tax taking process, which, if carried to its conclusion, results in a municipal tax lien being placed on the property.
Letters are sent out to all taxpayers whose bills have a balance remaining after Demand. Taxpayers are alerted to the tax title process, for which the next step, by state law, requires advertisement in a local newspaper. This office generally sends a courtesy letter in August. In September, letters are sent to remaining delinquent taxpayers, advising as to the intent of tax taking. Notice is given of a due date to avoid advertisement. From this point onward only cash, certified check, or cashier's check are acceptable forms of payment. Partial payments may still be made on the account, but only payment in full will prevent advertisement.
In early October, the tax title advertisement, including the prospective date of taking, is printed in a local newspaper. The Town of Seekonk customarily uses The Sunday Chronicle for tax title ads. The ad triggers additional charges on the account, all of which are prescribed by statute. The prorated cost of the advertisement is also added to the account. During the 14 days following the advertising, partial payments cannot be accepted.
If payment is not made in full by the advertised tax taking date, a document called an Instrument of Taking is prepared by this office and signed by the Collector, after which it is recorded at the Registry of Deeds. The recording of the Instrument of Taking creates a tax lien on the property.
The Town of Seekonk always recommends prompt redemption of the tax lien, which has a negative impact on any efforts to sell or refinance the property. Partial payments will be accepted and are encouraged.
After a tax taking, the responsibility for collection of the delinquent taxes and charges on the property no longer rests with the Tax Collector, but shifts to the Treasurer.
Land Court Foreclosure
After a parcel has been in tax title for 180 days, the Town may choose to initiate foreclosure on the property through the Land Court in Boston. The Town of Seekonk does have a vigorous and successful foreclosure program, and eventually every parcel in tax title will be scheduled for foreclosure.
If a taxpayer cannot immediately clear his delinquent taxes, but wishes to avoid foreclosure, he may choose to enter into a payment plan with the Treasurer to pay off the tax lien over a specified number of months. All payment plans have the following features in common:
- There must be a signed agreement between the taxpayer and the Treasurer.
- Certain specified amount must be paid each month.
- Payment of the current tax bill is incorporated into all tax title payment plans.
- Interest continues to accrue daily and it is calculated at 16% for tax title.
- All plans state that default on the plan will immediately trigger foreclosure by the Town.
State law requires that property taxes be listed in the name of the legal owner of record, which is the individual or entity that owned the property as of the January 1 prior to the beginning of the tax year. This office recognizes, however, that properties are bought and sold every day, and we make great effort during the entire tax collection process to send copies of all bills and correspondence to new owners, although we are required by statute to send the original bill to the owner of record. It would be incumbent upon all new owners, however, to make sure that they are in possession of a current tax bill. Failure to receive a bill does not in any way diminish the responsibility for payment of that bill.
Note: Furthermore, although your taxes may be paid by your mortgage company/bank through an escrow account, it is still the ultimate responsibility of the home owner to make sure the payments are made in a timely manner.