by Allen Larson
WIDELY HELD ASSUMPTIONS
ABOUT NONRESIDENT TAXPAYERS
two main assumptions made about coastal
Cape Cod, which are the biggest reasons why these towns have been shortchanged by the
current property values–based Chapter 70 formula:
regions are loaded with nonresident taxpayers. The assumption is that these towns are laden with
vacation homes whose owners pay property taxes to the host community, yet do not
overburden local services like police, fire, and schools. This presupposes that
these vacation homes are not rented out to families who live in them year-round and use
town services, particularly schools.
coastal regions have nonresident taxpayers. The assumption here is that all other communities
have few if any nonresident taxpayers. This presupposes that there are few if any
“snowbirds” who summer in Massachusetts, winter in Florida or other warmer
climes, and take advantage of out-of-state
tax and estate laws.
assumptions are strongly held on Beacon Hill,
yet there are no data to back them up.
Neither the state
Division of Local Services nor individual towns track the number of nonresident
taxpayers in the Commonwealth.
There are 11 communities in
that have adopted the “residential exemption” property tax system, which
seeks to shift some of the tax burden to nonresident or commercial taxpayers or
renters. However, even these towns cannot ascertain the number of nonresident
taxpayers because some full-time residents earn too much to qualify for the
exemption. Further, owners of undeveloped or vacant parcels, which bring money
into town coffers with no attendant burden on services, cannot qualify.
Chelsea, for example, has about 3,100 taxpayers who have qualified for the exemption
out of a total of 5,000 taxpayers. Its assessor’s office spokesperson has stated that there are other factors, such as the exact length of time spent at a
residence, that make it difficult to determine whether a taxpayer is a full-time
resident or not.
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