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The Assessor is required by Massachusetts Law to list and value all real and personal property. Valuation is subject to ad valorem taxation on an assessment list each year. The "ad valorem" basis for taxation means that all property should be taxed "according to value", which is the definition of ad valorem. Assessed values, in Massachusetts, are based on "full and fair cash value", or 100 % of the fair market value. Assessors are required to submit these values to the State Department or Revenue for certification every 5 years. In the years between certification, assessors must also maintain the values. This is done so that the property taxpayer pays his or her fair share of the cost of local government in proportion to the amount of money the property is worth on a yearly basis rather than every 5 years. The Hingham Assessors Office must appraise and assess approximately 8,000 parcels of real property, 300 billable personal property accounts, 20,000 motor vehicle excise accounts and 1,400 boat excise accounts.
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The Community Preservation Act (CPA) was voted on and accepted at our April 28, 2001 town election. The Act adds a 1.5 % surcharge to your real estate tax bill. However, there are exemptions to the surcharge. The first is a $100,000 residential exemption, which exempts the first $100,000 of assessed value from the 1.5% surcharge. This is only on residential property and will be applied automatically before the surcharge is billed. The next 2 exemptions are for low income and elderly families. If a family qualifies for this exemption they will pay no surcharge tax for the CPA. To qualify for this exemption your income must be below certain levels and you must complete an application including a copy of your most recent years tax return. The income qualification is from all sources and you must have income levels below what is shown in the table below. This surcharge will appear on the January tax bill. You must file an application for the exemption by April 1, 2021. Please contact the Hingham Board of Assessors as soon as possible if you qualify for one of these 2 exemptions.
To arrive at "full and fair cash value" for your property, the assessors must know what "willing sellers" and "willing buyers" are doing in the marketplace. The Assessors also must collect, record and analyze a great deal of information about property and market characteristics in order to estimate the fair market value, including keeping current on cost of construction in the area and any changes in zoning, financing and economic conditions which may affect property values. The Assessor uses 3 standardized appraisal approaches to value: market, cost and income. This data is then correlated into a final value. The object of the valuation program is to estimate: reasonable cash value" as of January 1 (known as the "assessment date") prior to the fiscal year. For example, the assessment date for Fiscal Year 2021 is January 1, 2020.
The Assessors Office handles no money and has nothing to do with the total amount of taxes collected. Rather, the responsibility of the Assessors is to apportion the tax burden according to the value of the properties in Town. In this way you pay only your fair share of the taxes.
The tax rate is determined by all the taxing agencies within the Town, and is the basis for the budget needed or demanded by the voters to provide for services, such as schools, roads, law enforcement, etc. Tax rates are simply those rates, or tax dollars per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which will provide funds necessary to pay for those services.
With proposition 2 ½, a minimum 2.5% increase in the Town's total tax levy can be expected each year.
If you were to make improvements to your existing property, for instance: add a garage, add an additional room, the "full and fair cash value" and, therefore, the assessed value would also increase.
When market value increases, the Assessors seek to adjust the assessed values accordingly. In adjusting assessed values the Assessor does not create value. People create value by their transactions in the marketplace. Depending both on the types of shifts in assessed value within the Town and on the actions of the Town's budget producing bodies, this process of keeping assessments in line with the real estate market can result in an increase in taxes.