Real Property Abatements

What is a property tax abatement?

An abatement is a reduction in your property’s assessment that you can apply for if you believe that assessment does not accurately reflect the property’s market value.

What grounds may I have to get my assessment abated?

You should seek an abatement if you believe one of the following applies to your property:

  • Overvaluation: you believe that your property's assessment exceeds its full and fair cash value.
  • Data Error: you believe that the physical data on your property's record card is inaccurate.
  • Incorrect Usage: you believe that we're classifying your property incorrectly (i.e., assessing a residential property as commercial).

How does the application process work?

3rd and 4th quarter actual tax bills with the newest certified assessments are issued in Orleans by December 31st. If you receive those bills and if you think the assessed value is inaccurate, you must complete, sign and submit an application for abatement (along with all accompanying documents you wish to provide as evidence) with the Assessing office no later than February 1st. If the 3rd and 4th quarter actual tax bills are issued after January 1st, the application is due no more than 30 days from the date the bill is issued. If you are mailing your application to us, it must be postmarked no later than February 1st. 

Any applications received or postmarked after February 1st, by law, must be denied.

You may pick up an application at the Assessing office or download one by clicking here.

How should I prepare my abatement application?

Here are some helpful tips for improving your chances of getting an abatement approved:

  • Read the application and fill it out completely. Don't feel constrained by the application; feel free to attach any written explanation that you feel helps you explain your perspective more clearly.
  • Get a copy of your property's record card from the Online Assessing Database and examine it thoroughly for data errors. Make specific mention of any that you find so we can review them.
  • Cooperate when the Assessor calls to schedule an inspection of your property. We're more than happy to schedule outside of normal business hours to accomodate your schedule.
  • If you're claiming that your property is being overvalued, you must provide us with multiple comparable sales of properties similar to yours that sold during the relevant time period. For example, seeking an abatement on your FY2020 assessment would mean that you should be reviewing sales that took place in calendar year 2018. Your value was derived from analyzing comparable sales, so you should be prepared to do the same thing. These should be sales of properties as similar to yours as possible in style, age, acreage and condition.

Here are some common pitfalls you'll want to avoid when filing for a real property abatement:

  • Don't apply because you think your taxes are too high. The residents of Orleans are directly responsible for how much spending the town does, not the Assessing office.
  • Don't compare your property's value or change in value to your neighbors; your neighbor's larger house being assessed lower than yours is not grounds for an abatement. Different styles, ages, sizes and qualities of homes on a single street can and will change in value at differing levels depending on which factors the sales market places a higher value on. Such behavior is 100% market-dictated is completely normal.
  • Per-square-foot prices listed on your property record card are informational only. A similar property to yours having a higher PSF price is not sufficient grounds for an abatement.
  • Don't challenge your square footage numbers by measuring the interior size of your rooms. USPAP standard for a building's dimensions require using the exterior wall lengths.
  • Don't submit a bank appraisal that is less than six months or more than one year old, or one that is being used for refinancing.
  • Don't submit value opinions from Zillow, Redfin, Trulia or any other third-party listing service. The algorithms that determine these estimates do not use the same mass appraisal methods that assessing professionals use in their work.
  • Don't forget to state your opinion of your property's market value. "Its too high" and "Well I don't know what its worth but its not worth that much" are not acceptable responses.
  • Don't refuse the Assessor's request to schedule a property inspection. Doing so is grounds for an automatic denial.

What happens after I submit my application?

The Board has three months from the date you submit your application to act on it.

If your application is granted, your property's taxable assessment will be adjusted accordingly and you will be mailed a certificate showing the adjustment to your assessment. If you choose to pay the 3rd quarter tax bill, any adjustment will be reflected on the balance that's due in the 4th quarter. If you choose to pay the 3rd and 4th quarters, any adjustment will be refunded to you via check by the Treasurer's office. Filing an abatement application does not stay the collection of your taxes...and remember, abatement applications are usually due on the same day as the 3rd quarter payment. If your plan is to wait until the Board of Assessors decides on your application before paying, you will end up incurring interest and late fees on your bill that must be paid even if an abatement is granted.

If your application is denied, no adjustment will be made to your assessment and you will be mailed a certificate stating the reason the Board denied your application.

What if I don't agree with the Board's decision?

If you don't agree with the disposition of your abatement application, you must file an appeal with the Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board, the neutral third-party that arbitrates assessment disputes. You can call them at (617) 727-3100 or visit their website for more information.