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New Bedford, MA 02740

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Matthew J. Thomas, Esq. successfully defends Seekonk condominium ATB Decision at Massachusetts Appeals Court

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On Friday, February 3, 2017, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued an Opinion pursuant to Rule 1:28 which affirmed the decision of the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board that partially and/or fully constructed units of a condominium are subject to real estate taxation as a present interest even though the Master Deed has not yet been amended to include the new phase of the condominium. Atty. Matt Thomas represented the Board of Assessors for the Town of Seekonk before the Appeals Court. The Opinion in RI Seekonk Holdings, LLC v. Board of Assessors of Seekonk, 15-P-1722 can be found below.

This decision is important in that it provides valuable guidance to Boards of Assessors throughout the Commonwealth in determining whether partially constructed, but undeclared, condominium units should be subject to real estate taxes. Previously, Massachusetts Assessors could seek a ruling from the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue  pursuant to General Laws Chapter 59, Section 11 as to whether the partially constructed units were taxable. However, the Massachusetts Municipal Modernization Act (Chapter 218 of the Acts of 2016) amended Section 11 such that after January 1, 2017, Assessors can no longer seek a written authorization to assess from the Commissioner of Revenue, but rather have to make the determination themselves.

In light of the RI Seekonk Holdings decision partially and/or fully constructed, but undeclared, units are taxable. Therefore, Assessors should maintain copies of the Building Permit, Building Inspection Reports and Certificates of Occupancy in the file for the respective condominium units, as they do in determining the assessed value of other partially constructed residential or commercial structures.

Decision RI Seekonk Holdings, LLC v. Board of Assessors of Seekonk 15-P-1722 170203

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Our Office will be closed from Wednesday, November 23, 2016 through Sunday, November 27, 2016 and will reopen at 9:00 am on Monday, November 28, 2016. We’d like to thank all our clients for the opportunity to provide legal services to them during the year. We’d like to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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Massachusetts SJC Affirms Split Tax Rate for Personal Property

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has affirmed the Decision of the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board that using a split rate – one rate for residential property and another rate for commercial, industrial & personal property, does not violate the Massachusetts Constitution’s requirement that all tax assessments be “proportional and reasonable”. The decision in Verizon New England, Inc. vs. Board of Assessors of Boston, SJC-12034 (November 2, 2016) has been highly anticipated by municipalities across the Commonwealth. Verizon argued that Article 112 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution had only authorized split tax rates for real property, but had not applied to personal property and that using a spilt tax rate for personal property resulted in a disproportionate assessment. The Board of Assessors of Boston had argued that based on Article 112, General Laws Chapter 40, Section 56, and an Opinion of the Justices from 1979, it was permissible to use the split tax rate for personal property. The full decision can be found at www.mass.gov/courts/docs/sjc/reporter-of-decisions/new-opinions/12034.pdf .

 

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ATB Issues Findings of Fact & Report in Swansea Solar Personal Property Tax Case

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On October 13, 2016, the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board (ATB) issued its Findings of Fact & Report in KTT,LLC v. Board of Assessors of The Town of Swansea, Docket# F-322736. The ATB had originally issued the Decision in this matter back on June 1, 2015. The ATB’s Decision and Findings in KTT are a logical extension of the ATB’s Decision in Forrestall Enterprises, Inc. v. Board of Assessors of Westborough (December 4, 2014).

As a result of these two decisions, it is now clear that solar panels, racking and related equipment that comprise a solar farm which sells the energy back through the grid and has entered net metering agreements to offset the electricity bills of properties which are taxable under Chapter 59 of the Massachusetts General Laws, are exempt from taxation as personal property. In making its decision, the ATB stated that there “is nothing ambiguous in the language of Clause Forty-Fifth and the plain meaning of its words requires only that the subject property be:

  1. a solar or wind powered system or device;
  2. utilized as a primary or auxiliary powered system for the purpose of heating or otherwise supplying energy; and
  3. utilized to supply the energy needs of property that is subject to Massachusetts property tax.

The ATB continued stating if “the Legislature had meant to limit the scope of Clause Forty-Fifth to exempt only solar arrays which supply the energy needs of properties owned by the same taxpayer, it could easily have done so.”

In an ironic twist, the result of the ATB’s Decision is that now the only solar farms that are taxable as personal property are those which enter net metering credit agreements with municipalities or non-profits since the property owned by these entities is not taxable.

Municipalities across Massachusetts which have taxed solar farms as personal property should review the net metering agreements to determine who is purchasing the net metering credits. Since municipalities are now setting their tax rates, they should also adjust their Overlay Accounts accordingly in anticipation of the spate of abatement applications that will most likely follow in February.

The Massachusetts Legislature had the opportunity to address the issue of personal property taxation of solar panels, but HB 2483, which had broad support, failed to pass before the end of the Formal Session.

It appears that the Town of Swansea is considering appealing the ATB’s Findings of Fact and Report to the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

 

 

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Massachusetts Municipal Modernization Act – An Overview

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Matt Thomas would like to thank all of the Officials and Department Heads from the City of Fall River who attended this morning’s presentation entitled “The Massachusetts Municipal Modernization Act – An Overview”. A PDF of the PowerPoint Presentation can be found on our Resources Page.

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Memorial Day 2016

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Our Office will be closed on Monday, May 30, 2016 in observance of Memorial Day. Please take a moment this weekend to remember and honor the sacrifice of those who gave their life in defense of our country.

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Plymouth County Collectors, Treasurers & Assessors Associations Joint Meeting

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Matt Thomas would like to thank the members of the Plymouth County Collectors & Treasurer’s Association and the Plymouth County Assessors Association for their hospitality at their joint meeting today, May 11, 2016, at Middleborough Town Hall. Matt presented “Don’t Drop the Baton: Successfully Collecting Taxes Takes a Team Effort”. A copy of the presentation is available on under the Resources tab.

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MAAO Winter Meeting

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Matt Thomas would like to thank the members of the Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers for their hospitality at the Winter Meeting on February 24, 2016 at Lombardo’s in Randolph, Massachusetts. Matt participated as panelist on a panel entitled “Solar Power,  Valuation & Pilot Negotiations – Recent ATB Decisions” with Mattapoisett Principal Assessor, Kathleen Costello, Shrewsbury Principal Assessor Christopher Reidy, and Atty. Ken Gurge. R. Lane Partridge, Town Assessor for the Town of Concord served as Moderator for the session.

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Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers – Winter Meeting

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Matt Thomas will be a panelist at the Massachusetts Association of Assessing Officers’ Winter Meeting on February 24, 2016 at Lombardo’s in Randolph, Massachusetts. Matt will be participating with Mattapoisett Principal Assessor, Kathleen Costello, MAA and several other individuals on a panel entitled “Solar Power,  Valuation & Pilot Negotiations – Recent ATB Decisions”. Matt has negotiated Solar Power PILOTs for the City of Fall River and the Town of Mattapoisett.

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Happy New Year !!

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We’d like to thank all our clients for the opportunity to provide legal services during the past year and wish you and yours a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year.

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