Enhanced property tax relief for veterans who volunteer in their communities
Boston — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has announced that he secured Senate approval of an amendment to S.2124, “An Act improving real property tax abatements, application deadlines, and deferrals,” which increases from $1,000 to $1,500 the amount veterans can “work off” their property tax bill through community service.
“Currently, senior citizens who perform volunteer services in the communities that participate in the senior work off program are eligible to receive a $1,500 reduction in their property tax bill,” said Hinds. “My amendment aligns the amount veterans can also expect to see discounted from their property taxes for the same types of community service. It’s an easy way to say thank you to veterans who served their country bravely while in active duty, who are now volunteering their time to support their community.”
Hinds’ amendment was adopted unanimously by the Senate by a vote of 39-0 during the course of Friday’s debate and is based on legislation authored by Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox. Pignatelli’s bill, H.1602, “An Act enhancing the volunteer service tax reduction for veterans,” has received a favorable report by the Joint Committee on Revenue and is pending further action by the House of Representatives. Sen. Michael D. Brady, D-Brockton, who serves as the Senate chair of the revenue committee, joined Hinds in the debate to speak in favor of the amendment.
Hinds is a co-sponsor of Pignatelli’s legislation and worked with Pignatelli to prepare Friday’s amendment.
Section 5N of Chapter 59 of the Massachusetts General Laws states that any city or town may establish a program to allow veterans to volunteer to provide services to that city or town, in exchange for which the city or town will reduce the real property tax obligations of that veteran on their tax bills. This legislation allows a city or town to expand the existing property tax deferral for senior citizens and for active military personnel. It includes the option to extend the time for higher interest payments. The bill also allows a city or town, through local option, to establish an interest rate on deferred taxes to less than 16 percent that would apply once the active military personnel or senior passes away or the property is sold.
It also authorizes a city or town, through local option, to extend the lower interest rate of 8 percent on deferred taxes for at least one year after the death of seniors or military personnel who were participating in a tax deferral agreement under Clause Forty-first A and Clause Eighteenth A in Section 5 of Chapter 59 of the Massachusetts General Laws. These clauses provide for local property tax exemptions for military service personnel and their spouses as well as low-income seniors.
In addition, the foreclosure grace period is extended from the current 6-month window to a one-year window. If, after one year, the deferred tax amount has not been paid, the local treasurer may petition the Land Court to foreclose the lien on the property.
In addition, the bill creates two new local-option real property tax exemptions for deaf persons: an exemption of $5,000 of taxable valuation or $437.50 of actual taxes due, whichever is greater; or an exemption of $500 of the actual taxes due. The taxpayer must own and occupy the property separately or jointly or as a tenant in common and must be a legal resident of the Commonwealth.
Finally, the bill improves the application deadlines for agricultural, horticultural or recreational land. Currently, the reporting deadline for chapter land applications to apply to have land valued, assessed and taxed as agricultural, forest or recreational land is Oct. 1, which burdens farmers during the harvest season with paperwork that could be done at a later date. The bill moves the deadline to Dec. 1 and amends and aligns the appeals deadlines to ensure uniformity.
The bill will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.