Many towns are now providing some property taxes relief for seniors. I think Sudbury was the first to initiate doing so and got special legislation to allow the town to help its economically more needy seniors by shifting part of their taxes to the rest of the residents.
At the Massachusetts Selectmen Association meeting I attended Saturday I spoke with Jonathan, a Wakefield Select board member (it is a 7 member board), learned they are doing so too, and he got me information on their program from their Assessor (copy attached below).
First, below are my notes from when I spoke with the Sudbury Assessor and got its system. This is their PowerPoint from their town meeting: 2018 ATM Article 15 Senior Means Tested Exemption Presentation
Telephone call to Cynthia Gerry, Assessor – firstname.lastname@example.org | (978) 639 – 3393
a. 2012 special legislation
b. Renewed a couple of times
c. In place through FY21
d. Senior means program
e. Linked to circuit breaker
f. Long time resident who qualify for circuit breaker can qualify for property tax relief
g. Well received
h. FY14 was first year
i. Average of about 110 applicants
j. Not funded by overlay, so residential exemption funded
k. Benefit cap was at 0.5% of total levy
l. The Board of Selectmen can increase it to 1%, but have not gone that high
m. $400K last year, about 0.5%
n. Pay about 10% of circuit breaker income plus 10% of circuit breaker income
o. Asset component to legislation, but vague and up to the board of assessors to use
i. No set limit
ii. Do get a financial statement
p. Deferral of RE taxes
i. Age 60
ii. Income matches circuit breaker ($86K)
iii. 2% rate
iv. Mortgage companies will not agree, as town becomes first lien holder
q. She will email me info
Second, this is the email from the Assessor for Wakefield, who appears to also be the Asessor for Reading, describing his program –
Hey Pete and Jonathan,
Yup, I did this in Reading and we’re going to do it in Wakefield. I can’t count the number of friends and colleagues that have reached out to me on this important topic.
Reading plan is simple:
Senior must receive the Senior Circuit Breaker Income Tax Credit. Pls see state guidelines.
Senior is 65 and co-applicant at least 60
Own and occupy home in the town for 10 years.
No other significant assets (tough to define as it’s one of those ‘I’l know it when I see it’ things, second home, etc)
In Reading, the benefit is anywhere from 50% to 200% of their CB credit.
Cost is shifted onto the Residential class of property
Wakefield is similar except that the credit is simply a 100% match. No disrespect intended but politics and taxes don’t mix
My models rely on receipt of the CB Credit. I did this because it’s already a state sponsored means test. Any changes like house value, assets, etc. would result in a local means test like a couple of towns have. I have about 650 people that receive the CB credit in each town. In Reading for FY 2018 195 applied and 183 were approved at 200% relief but, too much relief has an unintended consequence whereby some folks lost their CB credit the following year. FY 2019 Reading did 150% and 177 received it. I anticipate more folks being eligible for Fy 2020. Moreover, since it involves a shift in the tax rate, the application time is the month of August to allow me enough time for tax rate computation.
Hope this helps and feel free to email any further questions that you may have.