Appealing Your Property Assessment Applications Due by Feb. 1, 2020

Fundamentals for Property Assessment Appeals

When appealing your assessment, there are a few things to think about and a few things to learn and do. We hope the following information will help you get started.

  • Separate the issue of taxes from assessment. Your taxes are primarily determined by town meeting votes and ballot questions. The tax rate is determined by dividing the levy (the gross amount to be raised less estimated receipts and revenues) by the total valuation of all taxable real and personal property. Multiplying your valuation by the tax rate and dividing by 1000 determine your share of the tax burden.
  • The Assessors’ function is to determine the full and fair cash market value (the amount a willing buyer would pay to a willing seller with neither party under compulsion to buy or sell) of all property in the Town as of January 1st. We are required by law to conduct a revaluation every five years to reflect the fluctuating forces in the real estate market. We are also required to make interim adjustments annually if market fluctuations make it necessary to update values in order to meet state certification requirements. The percentage change in each property’s assessed value will differ according to structure, condition, location and size and market demand. There is no uniform increase or decrease factor because each property is affected differently.
  • The only time to file an appeal starts with the mailing date of the third quarter installment which is the actual tax bill. To avoid loss of appeal rights or addition of interest and other collection charges, the tax should be paid as assessed. Topsfield is on a quarterly tax-billing schedule. The actual due date is February 1st and is printed on the tax bill. Abatement applications for the fiscal year must be received in the Assessors’ Office prior to the filing deadline or mailed by United States Mail, first class postage on or before the filing deadline as shown by a postmark made by the United States Postal Service. Please refer to the Tax Payer Information about Abatement Procedures on the second page if you are the mortgagee or you are appealing an omitted, revised or reassessed taxes as the appeal periods are different. The Board of Assessors has no jurisdiction to act on an application that is not filed timely. It is automatically deemed denied.
  • Abatement application forms are available upon request and should be based on one of the following reasons: a.) Overvaluation, b.) Disproportionate Assessment, c.) Incorrect Usage Classification, d.) Other (i.e. data error).
  • The data listed on the Assessors’ property record card is a primary determinant of your value and the accuracy of that data is the first thing you should check with a member of the Board or Staff.  Some property features carry more weight than others. Building dimensions and features are generally significant and you should be prepared to discuss them if you feel an error has been made. In the absence of other information, the Assessors will rely on the records in the office.
  • Please remember that when filing an overvaluation application, the initial burden of proof rests with you. It will be helpful if you can submit data supporting your opinion of value with your application. The key is to identify “comparable properties that have sold during the 12-month period prior to the assessment date; the more nearly like your property (in terms of style, condition, size features and neighborhood) the better. Your assessment history or comparisons with homes in your neighborhood that haven't sold are weak indicators that an assessment is out of line.
  • Upon receipt of your application, the Assessors will inspect the property to verify the data. The Board may request additional information from you and if requested a hearing will be scheduled. The Board of Assessors has three months from date of receipt of your application to act on your appeal. Written notice must be mailed within ten (10) days of a decision. If you disagree with the Board's decision you have a right to further appeal (Appellate Tax Board) that is explained in the notice of decision.