The Assessors Department determines and manages the property value of homes (residential), businesses (commercial), taxable and non-taxable real property (land and improvements), and personal property (business equipment) in the City, maintaining an extensive database of property information. Through the Building Permit application process, the Assessors Department also reassesses any property physically changed during the course of the year.
The Assessing Department administers residential exemption tax relief in accordance with MGL Chapter 59, §5 and 5C, including a community outreach program for taxpayer assistance, and the tax billing for motor vehicle excise tax in accordance with MGL Chapter 60A. It has authority to grant abatements of value and statutory exemptions of real estate, personal property and motor vehicle excise (which may apply to senior citizens over the age of 70, widows and widowers, disabled veterans, and blind persons).
The Assessor is required by Massachusetts Law to list and value all real and personal property, which includes all changes of title and subdivisions. Valuation is subject to ad valorem (according to value) taxation on an assessment roll each year. Assessed values in Massachusetts are based on “full and fair cash value”, or 100% of the fair market value. To arrive at “full and fair cash value” the Assessor must know what “willing sellers” and “willing buyers” are doing in the marketplace.
The Assessor must collect, record and analyze a great deal of information, including property and market characteristics, sales verification analysis, up-to-date construction costs and any changes in zoning, financing and economic conditions. The City of Lowell Assessors Department uses the three nationally recognized appraisal approaches to value: cost, income and market. This data is then correlated into a final value. Prior to the issuing of tax bills, the City must submit the values to the State Department of Revenue for annual and triennial certifications.
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue mandates all municipalities to conduct a triennial (every three years) re-assessment of all real and personal property. The Board of Assessors must conduct this re-assessment pursuant to the guidelines for the development of a minimum re-assessment program established by the Department of Revenue (DOR). All values must be certified by the DOR in writing prior to the city's annual tax toll and tax rate being set. The Board of Assessors is responsible for the calculation of the annual tax rate necessary to raise the tax dollars, in accordance with Proposition 2 ½, to fund the city's annual operating budget.