Assessor’s Tax Talk 2018: Understanding Property Assessments and Tax Bills in Harwich

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In this article, we will discuss the recent property assessments and tax bills in the town of Harwich, Massachusetts. The Assessing Director, Donna Molino, joins Richard Waystack, a member of the Board of Assessors, to provide valuable information and insights regarding the increase in property values and how it affects tax bills for homeowners. They also address common concerns and questions, such as why taxes increase, how to challenge tax assessments, and available tax credits for seniors, veterans, and the sight-impaired.

Understanding the Increase in Property Values

The town of Harwich has experienced a 7% increase in property values this year. This means that the average value of properties across the town has gone up by 7%. However, it is important to note that not all properties will see the exact 7% increase, as the change in value varies depending on real estate activity and recent sales in specific neighborhoods.

Impact on Tax Bills

When property values increase, there is typically a corresponding decrease in the tax rate to ensure that the town does not accrue additional taxes by simply raising the value of properties. The determining authority for these tax rates is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Many taxpayers mistakenly believe that tax increases are limited to 2.5% due to Proposition 2-and-a-half. However, the budget approved at Town Meeting, along with any overrides, can result in tax increases above the 2.5% limit.

Challenging Tax Assessments

Homeowners who disagree with their property assessments have the option to challenge them through an abatement process. They can file an abatement form, available either in person or online through the Assessors Department website, before February 1st. It is crucial to provide justifiable reasons for challenging the assessment, such as providing comparable sales data or getting a professional appraisal. The Assessors Department keeps records of all property sales, which can be accessed online or in person for reference.

importance of attending town meetings

Attending Town Meeting is highly encouraged, as it allows taxpayers to have a voice in how the town’s funds are allocated. The decisions made at Town Meetings, such as approving budgets and overrides, directly impact tax rates and expenditures. Therefore, individuals who attend Town Meetings can actively participate and influence the financial decisions of their community.

The Role of the Board of Assessors

The Board of Assessors consists of dedicated members who diligently review and evaluate abatement applications within a three-month timeframe. It is essential for individuals filing abatement applications to provide supporting evidence and relevant information to challenge the assessment. The Board of Assessors relies on accurate and comprehensive data to make informed decisions.

Available Tax Credits

Harwich offers various tax credits and exemptions to assist taxpayers who may be facing financial difficulties. One such program is the Senior Tax Credit, which provides a $1,000 credit, with an additional $500 credit for qualifying individuals. The income and asset requirements determine eligibility for this program. Veterans also have the opportunity to receive tax credits based on their disability level. Additionally, sight-impaired individuals can qualify for a $500 exemption and a vehicle exemption if they require assistance with transportation.


Understanding property assessments and tax bills is crucial for homeowners in Harwich. The increase in property values does not necessarily translate to a 7% reduction in the tax rate. It is important to attend Town Meetings to actively participate in the decision-making process. For those who disagree with their property assessments, the abatement process provides an opportunity to challenge the valuation. Harwich also offers various tax credits and exemptions to assist individuals facing financial hardships. For more information and assistance, taxpayers can contact the Assessors Department or consult their local realtor. By staying informed and taking advantage of available programs, homeowners can navigate the tax system and ensure fair assessments and tax bills.

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