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 . Taxes may be collected either semi-annually or quarterly. Northbridge town meeting voted to adopt the quarterly method of collection for real estate and personal property tax bills. The chronology for the collection of these bills each year is as follows:
- 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 2 ½ 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 show up on these bills.
- The bill form is one 8x11 sheet divided into three parts. The bottom section, Payment Coupon 1, should be remitted with your August 1 payment. The middle section is Payment Coupon 2, and should be remitted with your November 1 payment. The top section is for your records. If you pay in person and wish to have your payment receipted, make sure to bring the entire bill with you. The top part of the bill will be stamped with the date and time that payment is made and returned to you 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 resultant 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 and 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 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 Actual bill is an 8x11 sheet which is divided into three parts. The bottom section, Payment Coupon 1, should be remitted with your February 1 payment, and the middle section, Payment Coupon 2, should be remitted with your May 1 payment. The top section should be retained for your records. If you pay in person and require a receipt, please bring the entire bill with you. The top part of the bill will be stamped with the date and time that payment is made.
- Any balance on the bill which remains unpaid after May 1 is subject to a statutory Demand charge. By state law, the Demand charge is a flat $25.00 per bill, regardless of the amount that remains unpaid and overdue. Demand bills are sent between May 10 and May 20 each year. There is a 14 day due period after Demands are sent before any further action may be taken.
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 sends letters to taxpayers in early July 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 mid-August, the tax title advertisement, including the prospective date of taking, is printed in a local newspaper. The Town of Northbridge customarily uses The Tribune 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. This office sends a letter and a copy of each ad to the respective owners and reiterates the intent of tax taking and emphasizes the final due date. 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 the recorded Instruments have been received back from the Registry, this office sends a letter with a photocopy of the recorded Instrument to the owner of each affected property, advising them that a tax lien has been placed on their property. We always recommend prompt redemption of the tax lien, which has a negative impact on any efforts to sell or refinance 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.
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 Northbridge's goal is to 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.
- A certain specified amount must be paid each month.
- Payment of the current tax bill is incorporated into all tax title payment plans.
- 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 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.
Motor Vehicle Excise Bills
By Massachusetts law, every vehicle in the state is subject to an annual excise tax. While individual communities bill and collect these excise taxes, it is the Registry of Motor Vehicles which is responsible for determining by which community the vehicle owner will be billed. The billing community is determined by the "Place of Garaging" that the owner has listed on the automobile insurance form.
The statutory excise rate is $25 per thousand dollars of value. The value of a vehicle for the purpose of the excise is the applicable percentage for that year of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price for that vehicle. The applicable percentages are set out in state law as follows:
In the year preceding the year of manufacture…. 50%
In the year of manufacture……………………… 90%
In the second year………………………………. 60%
In the third year…………………………………. 40%
In the fourth year…………………………………25%
In the fifth and succeeding years…………………10%
Original Bill - Excise bills are due and payable within thirty days of issue.
Demand bills will be sent on all excise bills not paid within the thirty day period. The Demand bill will add a flat $25.00 charge to each bill, plus interest at the rate of 12% per annum from the due date to the date of payment.
If the Motor Vehicle Excise bill is not paid within 14 days of the issuance of the Demand bill, this office sends the unpaid bill to the Town’s Deputy Collector for further action. The Deputy Collector for the Town of Northbridge is Kelley & Ryan Associates, which is located in Milford.
Notice of Warrant - The Deputy Collector will first mail a Notice of Warrant to the delinquent taxpayer. This notice will add an additional $14.00 to each bill, and the interest continues to accrue at 12% per annum.
Service of Warrant - If not paid within 30 days of the Notice of Warrant, the Deputy Collector will then issue a Service of Warrant, adding yet another $14.00 charge to the bill. Services of Warrant are hand delivered to the last known address of the vehicle owners. Again, interest continues to accrue at 12% per annum.
Non-Renewal Marks – If the excise continues unpaid after Service of Warrant, the owner and his vehicle will be "marked" at the Registry of Motor Vehicles for non-renewal of both car registration and driving license. AT this point, the Registry adds an additional $20.00 to each marked bill which the Town is obliged to collect. Individuals whose bills are marked may not renew their license or register any car until the delinquent bill has been paid.
Incorrect Excise Bills - When a taxpayers receives an excise bill that he believes to be incorrect, he must contact the Assessors’ Office for information on whether the bill may be eligible for abatement. If the Assessors determine that the bill can be abated in full, any interest and charges that may have accrued to the bill will also be abated. If, however, there is only a partial abatement, the balance of the excise must be paid along with all accrued interest and charges.
Partial Payments – Partial payments of motor vehicle excise bills may not be accepted. Since the law states that interest and charges, as they accrue, become a part of the bill, payment of delinquent bills may be accepted only if all fees and charges are included in the payment.