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 Auburn collects taxes quarterly.
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 the prior year total. The Board of Assessors’ may, at its discretion, adjust this amount to reflect any known tax increase. This final amount is then divided in half, with the first half being due August 1 and the second half due on November 1.
By state law, Preliminary bills cannot show either a valuation for the property or a tax rate. Likewise, elderly and veteran exemptions will not show on these bills. At this time bills are mailed for each quarter. Due to budget restrictions, this practice may change in the future. If you pay in person and wish to have a stamped receipt, make sure to bring your entire bill.
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 with interest accruing daily.
On December 31, actual bills are mailed. The Actual bill is based upon the tax rate for the particular year multiplied by the valuation of the property. The Preliminary amount is then subtracted from the total and the resultant balance is then 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 will show the value of the property as well as the tax rate. They are also required to show the last date that an abatement may be applied for, which, by statute, is February 1. Any unpaid balance will be reflected onto the next quarterly bill with the amount of interest that will accrue through the next due date.
Any balance on the bill which remains unpaid after May 1 is subject to a statutory Demand charge, which is a flat $15 per bill, regardless of the amount that remains unpaid and overdue. Demand bills are usually sent between May 10 and May 20 each year. There is a 14 day due period after Demands are issued before any further action may be taken.
Any balance remaining after the due date on the Demand bill is then turned over to the Deputy Collector. This action triggers additional charges on the account.
If the Deputy Collector is unsuccessful at collecting the outstanding balance, the account is 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 remaining balance. The taxpayer is alerted to the tax title process, for which the next step, by state law, requires advertisement in a local newspaper. From this point onward only cash, certified check or cashier’s checks are acceptable forms of payment. Partial payments may still be made on the account, but only payment in full will prevent advertisement.
The tax title advertisement, including the prospective date of taking, is printed in The Auburn News. The ad triggers additional charges, all of which are prescribed by statute. The prorated cost of the advertisement is also added to the account. At this point, partial payments are no longer 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. 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.
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 January 1 prior to the beginning of the tax year. This office recognizes that properties are transferred every day and we make every effort to correspond with new owners even though we are required by statute to address the 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.