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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE TOWN OF HARVARD TO ESTABLISH A CAP ON PROPERTY TAXES FOR MEANS TESTED SENIORS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1.  With respect to each qualifying parcel of real property classified as class one, residential in the town of Harvard there shall be an exemption from the property tax equal to 10 per cent of total annual household income, or such other per cent of income as determined under section 3. The exemption shall be applied to the domicile of the taxpayer only. The exemption provided for in this section shall be in addition to any other exemptions allowed pursuant to the General Laws, provided that, in no event shall the property taxes be reduced by more than 50 per cent by this exemption.

SECTION 2.  The Elderly and Disabled Tax Committee in the town of Harvard may deny an application for exemption if it finds, after reviewing the applicant’s statement of assets, that the applicant has excessive assets that place the applicant outside of the intended recipients of the senior exemption established by this act. Real property shall qualify for the exemption pursuant to section 1 if the following criteria are met:

(i)  the qualifying real property is owned and occupied by a person whose prior year’s income would make the person eligible for the circuit breaker income tax credit pursuant to subsection (k) of section 6 of chapter 62 of the General Laws;

    (ii)  the qualifying real property is owned by a single applicant who was age 65 or older at the close of the previous year or jointly by persons who are 60 years of age or older, provided that not less than 1 joint owner was age 65 or older at the close of the previous year;

   (iii)  the qualifying real property is owned and occupied by the applicant or joint applicants as their domicile;

    (iv)  the applicant or at least 1 of the joint applicants has resided in the town of Harvard for not less than 10 consecutive years before filing an application for the exemption;

(v)  the maximum assessed value of the domicile is not greater than the prior year’s maximum assessed value for qualification for the circuit breaker income tax credit pursuant to subsection (k) of section 6 of chapter 62 of the General Laws, as adjusted annually by the department of revenue; and

    (vi)  the Harvard Elderly and Disabled Tax Committee has approved the application for the exemption.

SECTION 3.  The exemption provided for in this act shall be in addition to any other exemptions allowable under the General Laws; provided, however, that after the first year of enactment, there shall be a dollar cap on all the exemptions granted pursuant to this act set annually by the board of selectmen within the range of 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent of the previous fiscal year’s total residential property tax levy for Harvard. In the event that benefits to applicants may be limited because the percentage established annually by the selectmen would otherwise be exceeded, the benefits shall be allocated by changing the income percentage as required in section 1 as necessary to not exceed the cap.  In the event the cap exceeds the need for the exemption, the total cap on by this section shall be reduced to meet the need. Exemptions under this statute will be funded and dispersed through the assessors’ overlay account in the same manner as exemptions granted for clauses Seventeenth and Forty-first of section 5 of chapter 59 of the General Laws.

SECTION 4.  A person who seeks to qualify for the exemption pursuant to section 1 shall file with the Harvard Elderly and Disabled Tax Committee an application for abatement on a form to be adopted by the Committee, with the supporting documentation as described in said form. This form shall be made available in Town Hall. Except for the first year following the adoption, the application shall be filed by January 31 of each fiscal year commencing the following July 1, for which the applicant seeks the exemption. The Harvard Elderly and Disabled Tax Committee shall set the deadline in a manner that provides at least 60 days in which to apply for the fiscal year that begins following the act becoming effective.

SECTION 5.  (a) For the purposes of this act, “parcel” shall be a dwelling unit as defined by the Harvard board of assessors in accordance with the deed for the property, including a condominium unit.

(b) For the purpose of this act, “income” shall mean a taxpayer’s total income for the purposes of the circuit breaker income tax credit, as defined in paragraph (1) of subsection (k) of section 6 of chapter 62.

SECTION 7.  No exemption shall be granted pursuant to this act until the commissioner of revenue certifies a residential tax rate for the applicable tax year where the total exemption amount is raised by a burden shift within the residential tax levy.

SECTION 8.  Acceptance of this act by the town of Harvard shall be by an affirmative vote of the majority of the voters at any regular or special election at which the question of acceptance was placed on the ballot. This act shall become effective 30 days after the affirmative vote.

SECTION 9.  Acceptance of this act by the town of Harvard shall automatically expire after 3 years unless reaffirmed by the affirmative vote of a majority of the voters at a town election. Once reaffirmed, it shall take an affirmed vote by two-thirds of the voters at a regular or special election at which the question of revocation has been placed on the ballot by a majority vote of then sitting members of the board of selectmen for this act to be revoked.

SECTION 10.  The Harvard Elderly and Disabled Tax Committee, with approval by the board of selectmen, may make technical and procedural changes, if it decides such changes will: (1) make the administration of the act more efficient, or (2) make it easier to comply with state regulations. Such changes shall not require further approval by the Legislature.

SECTION 11.  This act shall take effect upon its passage.

Approved, January 9, 2018.