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


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.