Why is the previous owner’s name on my tax bill?
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, Section 11 states: “Taxes on real estate shall be assessed … to the person who is the owner on January 1” preceding the start of the Fiscal Year.
In accordance with this statute, the tax bill will have the January 1 owner’s name for the next fiscal year. The name of the new owner will replace the previous owner’s name the following Fiscal Year. As a courtesy, when a new deed is recorded we add the new owner’s name preceded by “c/o” (care of) to the second line of the bill.
For Example: Ashby’s Fiscal Year is July 1st – June 30th. Real Estate tax bills are sent out quarterly. If your property was purchased or sold after January 1, 2021, the ownership change will be reflected in the Fiscal Year 2023 Q1 (August 2022) bill.
If the tax is assessed in the name of the previous owner, the new owner is still responsible for all taxes on the property. The new owner should pay the bill even though the previous owner’s name appears on the bill.
What are Supplemental Real Estate Taxes?
If you have purchased a home that is newly-built or has undergone significant real estate improvements, the property may be subject to an additional real estate tax, known as a Supplemental Real Estate Tax. While this could apply to any property, it is most often triggered by new construction.
In compliance with General Law Chapter 59 Section 2D, cities and towns must make supplemental pro-rata tax assessments on the value of certain improvements to real estate made after the assessment date. Properties undergoing significant real estate improvements in which the building value increases by at least 50% are subject to immediate taxation upon completion as indicated by a Certificate of Occupancy or Temporary Certificate of Occupancy. Your supplemental property tax bill is calculated from the date of your Certificate of Occupancy to the end of the fiscal year and is in addition to your actual tax bill for the fiscal year in which the construction was completed.
For example: On the January 1 assessment date a parcel of land did not have any improvements on it, and was therefore initially taxed as bare land. A home was then built and a Certificate of Occupancy was issued during that same fiscal year. A pro-rated Supplemental bill must also be issued for that fiscal year to pay taxes for the new house from the date of the Certificate of Occupancy until the end of the Fiscal Year on June 30.
If your property falls into this category, you will receive a Supplemental Tax bill, along with a letter from the Board of Assessors to explain how the amount of the supplemental tax was calculated.
Please note that if your real estate taxes are normally paid on your behalf by your mortgage company through escrow, it is YOUR responsibility to make your mortgage company aware that these additional supplemental taxes are due as they will not receive notice of supplemental bills directly. Some homeowners decide to pay this Supplemental bill themselves instead of involving their mortgage company.
Supplemental bills are typically sent out at the end of the fiscal year, around June or July. This can cause confusion with taxpayers, since the new fiscal year 1st quarter bills are also mailed out in July. Please note that the previous fiscal year’s bills (which will include the Supplemental bill) must be paid in full before any payments can be applied to the new fiscal year. If your mortgage company is paying your real estate taxes and they are unaware that you owe a Supplemental bill for the previous fiscal year, according to MA state law, that payment will be applied to the previous fiscal year’s outstanding bill first.