Overview of Massachusetts Taxes
Homeowners in Massachusetts face some of the largest annual property tax bills of any state in the country. The median annual property tax payment in the state is $4,309. However, the state’s average effective tax rate of 1.22% is higher than the national average.
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To calculate the exact amount of property tax you will owe requires your property's assessed value and the property tax rates based on your property's address. Please note that we can only estimate your property tax based on median property taxes in your area. There are typically multiple rates in a given area, because your state, county, local schools and emergency responders each receive funding partly through these taxes. In our calculator, we take your home value and multiply that by your county's effective property tax rate. This is equal to the median property tax paid as a percentage of the median home value in your county.
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Jennifer Mansfield, CPA, JD/LLM-Tax, is a Certified Public Accountant with more than 30 years of experience providing tax advice. SmartAsset’s tax expert has a degree in Accounting and Business/Management from the University of Wyoming, as well as both a Masters in Tax Laws and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University Law Center. Jennifer has mostly worked in public accounting firms, including Ernst & Young and Deloitte. She is passionate about helping provide people and businesses with valuable accounting and tax advice to allow them to prosper financially. Jennifer lives in Arizona and was recently named to the Greater Tucson Leadership Program.
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Massachusetts Property Taxes
Massachusetts is a rather expensive state when it comes to property tax bills for its residents. In fact, the median annual property tax payment is $4,309. Tax rates are set locally by cities and towns in Massachusetts, with total rates generally ranging from 1% to 2% (10 to 20 mills). Incorporating all areas, the state's average effective tax rate is 1.22%. This is above the national average, which is 1.08%.
If you're thinking about buying real estate in Massachusetts despite the high property tax bills, or if you're looking into refinancing your mortgage, check out our mortgage rates guide for details on getting mortgages in the state.
A financial advisor in Massachusetts can help you understand how homeownership fits into your overall financial goals. Financial advisors can also help with investing and financial plans, including taxes, homeownership, retirement and more, to make sure you are preparing for the future.
How Property Taxes in Massachusetts Work
In Massachusetts cities and towns are responsible for administering and collecting property taxes. Tax bills are mailed out four times annually (in January, April, July and October), and they are due within 30 days of being sent.
Property taxes in Massachusetts are based on the assessed value of the property and the local tax rate. All residential real estate is assessed every year. The goal of the assessment is to determine the market value of the property as of January 1st, the assessment date in Massachusetts.
To determine market value local assessors can use one of several approaches. The most common is the market method. This method uses market data, including the sales prices of nearby comparable properties, to calculate market value.
Homeowners who believe their home's assessed value is too high can file an abatement application. If the application is accepted, a portion of the property taxes paid will be refunded. If the application is denied, the homeowner has the option to appeal, although this is a lengthier process.
Massachusetts Property Tax Rates
Tax rates in Massachusetts are determined by cities and towns. They are expressed in dollars per $1,000 of assessed value (often referred to as mill rates). For example, if your assessed value is $200,000 and your tax rate is 10, your total annual tax would be $2,000.
An effective tax rate is the annual taxes paid as a percentage of home value. Effective tax rates are useful for comparing between areas and between states. The table below shows the median annual property tax payment, the median home value and average effective property tax rate for every county in Massachusetts.
|County||Median Home Value||Median Annual Property Tax Payment||Average Effective Property Tax Rate|
In dollar terms, Middlesex County has the highest annual property tax payments of any county in Massachusetts. The median property tax owed on a home in Middlesex County is $5,541. Along with Norfolk County, it is one of two counties in the state with an average payment over $5,000. The average effective tax rate in Middlesex County is 1.22%.
Rates in the county vary depending on which city your home is in. In Lowell, for example, the total rate for 2019 is $14.04 per $1,000 in assessed value. In Cambridge, the rate is significantly lower at $6.29 per $1,000 in assessed value.
Worcester County is located in central Massachusetts and has the second largest population of any county in the state. Property taxes differ greatly between cities in Worcester County, but on average, the effective tax rate across the county is 1.48%, tied for third highest in the state.
In the city of Worcester, which is the largest city in the county, the total rate is much higher. For 2019, the total rate in Worcester is $18.00 per $1,000 in assessed value. At that rate, someone with a home value of $300,000 would owe $5,400 in taxes annually.
The northernmost county in Massachusetts, Essex County has relatively high home values, but property tax rates are close to average. The county's median home value is $373,400, while the average effective property tax rate is 1.25%.
Suffolk County is home to the city of Boston and is the third most populous county in Massachusetts. The 2019 total tax rate in Boston is $10.54 per $1,000 in assessed value. One of the largest recipients of those property tax dollars is public education.
If you have questions about how property taxes can affect your overall financial plans, a financial advisor in Boston can help you out.
The median home value in Norfolk County is $433,000, more than double the national average. Thus, while property tax rates in the county are not especially high on a statewide basis, property tax bills often are high. The median annual property tax payment in Norfolk County is $5,286. That is also well over double the national average.
Located in southern Massachusetts along the border with Rhode Island, Bristol County has relatively low property taxes. The average effective property tax in the county is 1.20%. At that rate, a homeowner with a home worth $250,000 would pay $3,000 annually in property taxes.
At 1.33%, the average effective property tax rate in Plymouth County is the sixth highest in the state. That rate will vary depending on what city or town you pay taxes to, though. For example, in the city of Plymouth the total rate for 2019 is $16.54 per $1,000 in assessed value (roughly equal to an effective rate of 1.65%). In Brockton, the total rate is $15.54 per $1,000 is assessed value.
On average, Hampden County has the highest property tax rate of any county in Massachusetts. The county's average effective property tax rate is 1.68%. The taxes owed on a home worth $200,000 at that rate would be $3,360 per year.
If you're seeking low property taxes in the state of Massachusetts, Barnstable County may be a good choice. The county, which houses Cape Cod, has a 0.79% average effective property tax rate. This is well below the state average of 1.22%. The median annual tax payment of $2,957 in Barnstable County is well under the state median, too.
Hampshire County is located north of the city of Springfield. It's tied with Worcester County for the third highest average effective property tax rate at 1.48%. The county's largest city is Amherst, which also has relatively high property taxes. The total tax rate in Amherst is about $21.03 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Places Receiving the Most Value for Their Property Taxes
SmartAsset’s interactive map highlights the places across the country where property tax dollars are being spent most effectively. Zoom between states and the national map to see the counties getting the biggest bang for their property tax buck.
Our study aims to find the places in the United States where people are getting the most value for their property tax dollars. To do this, we looked at property taxes paid, school rankings and the change in property values over a five-year period.
First, we used the number of households, median home value and average property tax rate to calculate a per capita property tax collected for each county.
As a way to measure the quality of schools, we analyzed the math and reading/language arts proficiencies for every school district in the country. We created an average score for each district by looking at the scores for every school in that district, weighting it to account for the number of students in each school. Within each state, we assigned every county a score between 1 and 10 (with 10 being the best) based on the average scores of the districts in each county.
Then, we calculated the change in property tax value in each county over a five-year period. Places where property values rose by the greatest amount indicated where consumers were motivated to buy homes, and a positive return on investment for homeowners in the community.
Finally, we calculated a property tax index, based on the criteria above. Counties with the highest scores were those where property tax dollars are going the furthest.