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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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Matt Thomas delivers presentation entitled “Don’t Drop The Baton – Successfully Collecting Tax Titles” at Norfolk Suffolk Counties Assessors Association Spring Meeting

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Matt would like to thank Dennis Fliss, Town Assessor for the Town of Walpole, and the members of the Norfolk Suffolk Counties Assessors Association for their hospitality yesterday at the Association’s Spring Meeting where Matt presented “Don’t Drop the Baton – Successfully Collecting Tax Titles”, a presentation on the role of the Assessors Office in facilitating municipal efforts to collect outstanding real estate tax payments.  During the presentation Matt discussed the entire real estate tax collection process from assessment through sale of tax possessions. Matt also stressed the importance of maintaining current and accurate assessors’ maps and current property owner information  as well as the importance of assessing the parcel as shown on the assessors’ map. Also speaking at the Spring Meeting were Joanne Graziano, Bureau Chief of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Bureau of Local Assessment and Lane Partridge, Co-Chair of the MAAO Legislative Committee. If you would like a copy of Matt’s presentation please contact us at mjt@mjthomaslaw.com.

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Matt Thomas Selected as 1 of 28 Brownfield Redevelopment Advisors for 2015 National Brownfield Conference

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Matthew J. Thomas, Esq. has been selected to serve as one of twenty-eight “Transaction Consultation Redevelopment Advisors” at the 2015 National Brownfields Conference, September 2- 4, 2015 in Chicago, IL.  The Redevelopment Advisors include a line-up of developers, seasoned environmental consultants, insurance professionals, attorneys and others with expertise in Brownfield redevelopment and transactions. The Redevelopment Advisors participate as part of a team of up to 3 members with cross-sectional expertise and provide individual consultations to municipalities and site owners to address challenges in the possible redevelopment of brownfield sites. These consultations are free of charge to conference participants. Matt has also been a Presenter at previous National Brownfield Conferences. For more information about the 2015 National Brownfield Conference please visit the Conference website at http://www.brownfieldsconference.org/en/home .

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