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Filing for a property tax exemption

Filing for a property tax exemption

Through an exemption, the City releases you from paying part or all of your property taxes. If you want to file for a property tax exemption, you may have a couple of different options:

Still have questions? Contact:
Assessing
1 City Hall Square
Room 301
Boston, MA 02201-2011
United States

Personal exemption

We can reduce property taxes for residents who meet certain program qualifications. If you want to apply for an exemption, you need to prove that you meet those qualifications.

BEFORE YOU GET STARTED

You have until April 1 to file an application. You will need to show us any documents that support your application, including birth and death certificates.

If you qualify for more than one exemption, we’ll make sure you get the exemption that saves you the most money. Please keep in mind, if you file a personal exemption application, that does not mean you can postpone paying your taxes. 

To qualify for any exemption, you need to show that you have an ownership interest in the property.

What do we consider ownership?

You must have a certain level of financial interest in the property. See the specific exemption program for more information on determining ownership.

You can own the property by yourself or with someone else. If you hold a life estate you may meet the ownership requirement. If the home is held in a trust, you can only qualify for the exemption if:

  • you are a trustee or co-trustee of the trust, and
  • you have a sufficient beneficial interest in the home through the trust. 

You also will need to show a copy of the trust and a notarized copy of the schedule of beneficiaries.

You can find the different options for personal exemptions below:

Personal exemption programs

Personal options

You may be eligible for this exemption if, as of July 1, one of these personal situations is true:

  • Your husband or wife is deceased.
  • Your parent is deceased and you are a child under the age of 18, or
  • You are 70 years old or older.

And:

  • You are a surviving spouse or minor who has occupied the property as your domicile OR you are a person 70 years old or older who has owned and occupied the property as your domicile for 5 years or more.
  • Any ownership interest must be worth at least $2,000 (contact TRAC for more information on the ownership requirement).
  • The whole estate, not including the value of the property, can’t be more than $40,000. For properties that have more than four units or a commercial unit, we include a portion of the value of those units in our whole estate calculation.  

If you qualify for the exemption, you will receive $310 in tax relief in Fiscal Year 2017. The City may grant up to an additional $310 in tax relief. The additional tax relief will NOT be granted if it will:

  • make your final 2017 tax bill lower than your final 2016 tax bill, or
  • reduce the taxable value of your property below 10 percent of the assessed value.

how to apply for the 17D exemption

You may be eligible for this exemption if you meet these requirements:

  • You have been declared legally blind. To prove your legally blind status you need to be registered with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and receive a Massachusetts Commission for the Blind certificate that says you are legally blind as of July 1 of the fiscal year OR you provide a letter from a physician saying you were legally blind as of July 1 of the fiscal year.
  • You owned and occupied the property as your domicile as of July 1 of the fiscal year. Your ownership interest in the property must be worth at least $5,000 (contact TRAC for more information on the ownership requirement).

If you qualify for the exemption, you will receive $500 in tax relief in Fiscal Year 2017. The City may grant up to an additional $500 in tax relief. The additional tax relief will NOT be granted if it will:

  • make your final 2017 tax bill lower than your final 2016 tax bill, or
  • reduce the taxable value of your property below 10 percent of the assessed value.

How to apply for the BLIND exemption

If you qualify for the veteran exemption, you will receive between $400 to $1,500 in real estate tax relief. The amount you receive depends on the nature of your disability. See the table below for more information.

The City may grant additional tax relief. The additional relief will NOT be granted if it will:

  • make you final 2017 tax bill lower than your final 2016 tax bill, or
  • reduce the taxable value of your property below 10 percent of the assessed value.

Additional program requirements:

  • You, as of July 1 of the fiscal year, must have an ownership interest worth at least $2,000 (contact TRAC for more information about the ownership requirement).
  • You, or if deceased the veteran’s spouse or parent, must, as of July 1 of the fiscal year, occupy the property as your domicile. The veteran must have been a Massachusetts resident for at least six months before entering the service or have lived in Massachusetts for at least one year after discharge prior to filing for this exemption.

If you are an elderly veteran and have a limited income, you may want to first consider an elderly exemption 41C. You could receive more tax relief.

VETERAN EXEMPTION ELIGIBILITY AND TAX RELIEF AMOUNTS
Amount Who is eligible
$400 veteran needs to have a service-related disability of at least 10 percent as certified by the Veterans AdministrationThe spouses of veterans or the surviving spouses of veterans who remain unmarried also qualify.
$400 A veteran, or the surviving spouse of a veteran who remains unmarried, who was awarded a purple heart.
$400 You are the parent of a veteran who lost their life during wartime.
$400 You are the surviving spouse of a WWI veteran and you lived in Massachusetts for the past five years. Your whole estate, not including the property, can’t be more than $20,000.
$750 to $1,500

A veteran who lost limbs or eyes, was awarded certain medals, has 100 percent disability with specially adaptive housing, or is unable to work. If the property is more than a single family house, the tax relief only applies to the part of the property where the veteran or surviving spouse lives.

Full A paraplegic veteran, as certified by the Veterans Administration, and their surviving spouse.
Full for the first five years. Up to $2,500 a year after that.

Surviving spouses of military members who died in combat or are missing in action and presumed dead.

If the death happened after Sept. 11, 2001, you may be eligible to receive retroactive exemptions starting as early as fiscal year 2003.

 

How to apply for the Veterans exemption

You may be eligible for this exemption if you meet these requirements:

  • You are 65 years old or older as of July 1 of the fiscal year.
  • You owned and occupied your current property as your domicile as of July 1 of the fiscal year.
  • You have been domiciled in Massachusetts for the preceding ten years, and have owned the current property or other property in Massachusetts for at least five years.
  • Your ownership interest in the property must be at least $4,000 (contact TRAC for more information about the ownership requirement).
  • Surviving spouses may also qualify. Please contact TRAC for more information.
  • For Fiscal Year 2017, your gross income, including your social security benefits, can’t be more than $24,523 if you are single and $36,785 if you are married.
  • Your whole estate, not including the value of the property, can’t be more than $40,000 if you are single and $55,000 if you are married.

If you qualify for the exemption, you will receive $750 in tax relief in Fiscal Year 2017. The City may grant you up to an additional $750 in tax relief. The additional tax relief will NOT be granted if it will:

  • make your final 2017 tax bill lower than your final 2016 tax bill, or
  • reduce the taxable value of your property below 10 percent of the assessed value.

how to apply for the elderly exemption

The state also offers a Circuit Breaker tax credit for seniors 65 and older that have a low-to-moderate income. Learn more about the tax credit.

This exemption is discretionary. You may be eligible for this exemption if the Board of Assessors determines you can’t pay your real estate taxes because of your age, infirmity, and financial condition. Eligible taxpayers may be released from paying all or a portion of their real estate taxes.

A Board of Assessors member will determine if a home inspection is necessary. If you refuse the inspection, your application will be denied. All multifamily or mixed-use buildings will require an inspection.

You, the applicant, as of July 1 of the fiscal year, must possess an ownership interest in the property worth at least $4,000 (contact TRAC for more information about the ownership requirement).

Together with your application, you need to give us the following information:

  • your birth certificate
  • your most recent tax returns with your W2 forms, or you can give us copies of your pay stubs for the past year
  • your social security benefits statement
  • a statement detailing your pension benefits
  • all of your bank statements for the current year and the previous year
  • what you receive in unemployment compensation
  • any public assistance statements for the current year and the previous year
  • what you receive from rental income
  • all sources of income you receive, including:
    • money you get from non-family members who live in your home, and
    • any financial assistance you receive from your adult children.
  • the names and ages of any minors who live in the home that are under the age of 18, and the schools they attend
  • the names, dates of birth, addresses, jobs, and wages of all of your children 18 years or older
  • monthly, quarterly, or yearly statements for any IRAs or annuities that you hold
  • a current physician’s letter that details your disability and how long you’ve had it, and
  • copies of your utility and food billsmortgage paymentscredit and loan payments, and car and house insurance.

how to apply for the HARDSHIP exemption

You may be eligible for this exemption if:

  • You are a member of the National Guard or Military Reserve on active duty serving in a foreign country on or after the start of the fiscal year, which is July 1.
  • You own the property as your primary residence, and your ownership interest in the property is at least $2,000 (contact TRAC for more information about the ownership requirement).

If you apply for a National Guard exemption, you must submit your application by April 1 of the tax year. However, if you were serving outside the United States at the time of the filing deadline, you may receive a filing extension per federal law. Please contact the Assessing Department for more information.

Please provide these documents together with your application:

  • your deployment order (DD Form 214), and
  • if the property is owned in a trust, a copy of the trust and a notarized copy of the schedule of beneficiaries.

how to apply for the National Guard exemption

Residential exemption

If you own and live in your property as a primary residence, you may qualify for the residential exemption. The residential exemption reduces your tax bill by excluding a portion of your residential property’s value from taxation. For Fiscal Year 2017, the residential exemption saved qualified Boston homeowners up to $2,432.91 on their tax bill. 

We apply the exemption amount to your third-quarter tax bill that is issued in late December. If you didn’t get the credit on your bill and think you should have, you can apply for a residential exemption.

You have until April 1 to file an application for the current fiscal year.

HOW IT WORKS

You need to have owned and lived in your home as your primary residence on January 1 before the current fiscal year. For example, to be eligible for Fiscal Year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017), you need to have owned and occupied your property as your primary residence on January 1, 2016.

You can only qualify for a residential exemption for one property. Please remember, if you file a residential exemption application, that does not mean you can postpone paying your taxes.

You can apply for other exemptions along with the residential exemption, but the taxable value of your property can’t be below 10 percent of the assessed value. There are exceptions for certain residents with physical ailments or financial hardships.

How to FILE for A residential exemption

Co-op housing exemption

If you are a shareholder in a housing cooperative — or co-op — and your unit is your primary residence, your co-op may qualify for this exemption. The co-op needs to file the exemption application. Shareholders cannot individually apply for this exemption.

If, as a shareholder in a co-op who occupies your unit as your primary residence, you believe that you may qualify for this exemption then you are encouraged to speak with your co-op management, representatives, or board of trustees to ensure that you are receiving the exemption. Please note that only certain co-ops as defined by Massachusetts General Law will qualify for the Co-op Housing Exemption.

WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND

To get the exemption in the current fiscal year a co-op’s management, representative, or board of trustees needs to file an application by October 31. To qualify as a shareholder:

  • your co-op housing unit needs to be your primary residence, and
  • you also need to have lived there on January 1 before the current fiscal year. For example, to be eligible for Fiscal Year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017), you need to have lived in the unit as your primary residence on January 1, 2016.
HOW THE EXEMPTION IS DISTRIBUTED

The tax bill deduction for the co-op corporation equals the total amount of all exemptions given to qualifying units. As a shareholder, your exemption is based on the percentage of your share in the co-op.

The co-op exemption can equal up to 30 percent of the average value of the residential units in a qualified co-op, but the amount can never be more than the Residential Exemption for homeowners in Boston. For Fiscal Year 2016, that amount is $1,961.58.

INFORMATION NEEDED WHEN YOU APPLY

To process your application, the Assessing Department will need information on the corporation itself as well as individual shareholders. The exact information needed is explained in detail on the Cooperative Exemption Application.

How to apply for the Co-op exemption

Statutory exemption

Certain organizations qualify to receive an exemption from local property taxes. The types of organizations that may qualify include: religious, charitable, benevolent, educational, literary, temperance, or scientific organizations.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?

For charitable, benevolent, educational, literary, temperance, or scientific groups:

  • The organization must be a corporation or a Massachusetts charitable trust.
  • The organization must have filed a Form 3ABC with the Assessing Department.

The organization must show occupancy as of July 1 and can generally do so in one of the following ways:

  • by using the building for its charitable purposes which must be consistent with Massachusetts General Law, or
  • by letting another charitable corporation use the property for its charitable purposes, which purposes must be consistent with Massachusetts General Law, or

For religious organizations, the property generally must:

  • be a house of worship
  • be used for religious instruction, or
  • be used as living quarters by the pastor as of July 1 of the fiscal year.

The property must be owned by the religious organization or held in trust. If part of the property isn’t used for religious purposes as outlined above, that part of the property can't be exempt under the religious usage rules. But, that part of the property may qualify as a charitable organization if other requirements are met.

In addition, a corporation buying a property on or before July 1 with the purpose of “removal there-to” may also qualify for exemption. Generally, the removal must involve relocation from one site to another. The exemption period is temporary and ends two years from the date of acquisition.

If your organization meets these requirements, you have two options to apply for a statutory exemption: Preliminary Consideration before a tax bill is issued or an abatement filing after a tax bill is issued. When applying, an organization will need to give us additional information about the organization and the property such as the articles of organization and by-laws as examples.

ThE FORM 3ABC REQUIREMENT

Organizations seeking exemptions for real property or personal property they own on January 1 preceding the fiscal year have to complete a Form 3ABC, which is a state tax form, each year.

WHAT TO KEEP IN MIND

*An organization needs to file the form annually before the start of the fiscal year. The deadline is March 1.

Religious groups only need to file the form if they are seeking an exemption for other than religious purposes as outlined previously. All other organizations must file the form every year by March 1. This includes new applicants and groups that were previously exempted.

When filing the Form 3ABC, an organization needs to attach a “true copy” of the Form PC which they file with the Attorney General’s office every year.

Download the Form 3ABC