A Message to Seniors from City Assessor Frank Golden

An Important Message for Seniors

As you’ll see in the links and video below, the City offers various exemptions, tax deferrals, hardship waivers, and more. Most have income limits. To make it easy for you to find out if you are eligible, our Tax Assistant, Janneke Donovan, is happy to take your calls and walk you through any options you may have. She can be reached at 617-625-6600 x3522. –Frank Golden, City Assessor

The deadline to apply for residential and other exemptions is April 2, 2018. For more information or to apply, please call 617-625-6600 x3522.

The Senior Tax Deferral program allows qualifying seniors age 65 or over to delay paying all or a portion of their tax bill as long as they live in and own their home. That way seniors can free up some of their resources to help cover their living expenses. Tax deferral works like a loan. Currently, 3 percent simple interest is charged on the amount deferred. Payment is not due until the house is sold or transferred to heirs or others. Call Tax Assistant Janneke Donovan at 617-625-6600 x3522 to learn more.

In cases of extreme hardship, seniors may qualify to have all or a portion of their tax bill waived. Hardship is based on three factors that must all be met: age, infirmity, and income. This option is for homeowners who are older, very low-income, and who also suffer from a physical or mental illness, impairment, or disability. Call Tax Assistant Janneke Donovan at 617-625-6600 x3522 to learn more.

The Senior Tax Work-off program is just what it sounds like. Any senior over 60 may opt to work off up to $1,500 of their annual tax bill by doing light office or other helpful work for the City. By law, the hourly pay rate is the State minimum wage of $11 per hour. That means it takes about 137 hours to work off the full $1,500, or about 3 hours per week. Work-off jobs include light office work or youth services, such as reading storybooks to children. We make every effort to find available work with duties that match your skills and abilities. Call Tax Assistant Janneke Donovan at 617-625-6600 x3522 to learn more.

Qualifying seniors, widows, and others may apply for additional exemptions allowed under state law. This includes the 41C Elderly Exemption of $1,000 for qualifying low-income seniors 65 and over. The 17D Elderly Exemption of $258 for qualifying seniors 70 and over, and various Veterans and disability exemptions. The above amounts are set by the State. But depending on how much your taxes increased over last year, the City also allows up to double the above amounts to be removed from your tax bill. We’re happy to help you figure out if you qualify. Call Tax Assistant Janneke Donovan at 617-625-6600 x3522 to learn more.

Full exemptions from the Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge are available to seniors age 60 and over who are under income limits. For example, individual seniors with an income at or below $72,400, or married seniors at or below $82,720, qualify. Limits increase with family size, and deductions for dependents and medical expenses may also help you come in under these limits. So please call us to help determine your eligibility: Contact Tax Assistant Janneke Donovan at 617-625-6600 x3522.

At 35%, the City of Somerville offers the highest residential property exemption in the Commonwealth. If you lived in your home as of January 1, 2017, homeowners of any age can apply for this exemption. This fiscal year, this can save you $2,833 off your annual tax bill. Call Tax Assistant Janneke Donovan at 617-625-6600 x3522 to learn more.

If you have not made any upgrades to your home in the past nine years or done any unpermitted work, and if appraisers have not been inside your home during that period, your home assessment may be too high. When your assessment is too high, you are paying taxes that you shouldn’t have to.

We fully understand that some homeowners worry that letting assessors in will raise their taxes. For seniors, this is rarely the case—unless you’ve made unpermitted home improvements. Among other factors, that’s because when assessors cannot see the inside of a home, they assume the interior condition of the home has not depreciated since the last inspection. That unfortunately can raise the assessed value of your home higher than it should be. By letting the assessors in every nine years to fairly determine the interior condition of your property, you are assuring a more accurate value.

To be clear, you may take excellent care of your home, but if your kitchens and baths or other inside features are not new and an appraiser can confirm this, they will likely lower the assessed value of your home.

While working as the Assessor in Watertown, I did targeted outreach to seniors and reassessed dozens of seniors’ homes. Every reappraisal that met the conditions noted above either resulted in tax savings for the homeowners or no change. No one’s taxes went up as a result of letting the assessor in.

Again, we understand you may be hesitant to pursue this option. I am available to personally speak confidentially with any senior homeowners to help determine whether to request a new assessment. You can reach me at 617-625-6600 ext. 3100. Please ask for me, Assessor Frank Golden, personally.

There is no deadline to request a reassessment. But homeowners who have their homes reassessed by late May, will see any potential tax savings start to appear on their summer tax bill. Even a current assessed value that is just $75,000 too high, can cost you up to a few hundred dollars per year in unnecessary taxes.

Video: Tax Options for Seniors