Massachusetts Agencies

Tax Taking: Assessment

Real Estate Taxes and Municipal Charges

See G.L.c. 59, §11 and Homer v. Town of Yarmouth, 40 Mass.App.Ct. 916, — N.E.2d — (1996) as to the proper person to be assessed regarding a tax taking, especially prior to 1936. The statute in effect at the time, as interpreted in Homer requires that the assessment be against the holder under a tax taking, if there is one. (Takings for tax years after 1936 would not have had this result. See City of Lowell v. Marden & Murphy, 321 Mass. 597, 74 N.E.2d 666 (1947)). See also G.L.c 60, §80C, Lamontagne v. Knightly, 30 Mass.App.Ct. 647, 572 N.E.2d 1375 (1991) and Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, Inc. v. Bay-Courte Edgartown, Inc., 401 Mass. 267, 516 N.E.2d 144 (1987).

I'm not sure Homer was correctly decided, but it has caused me to rethink my view on this subject. My view the statute in effect at the time provided that the record owner was the proper person to be assessed and further provided that the record owner shall be deemed to be the true owner "andso shall the person so appearing of record under a tax deed." (Emphasis added). The sentence, in my view, permitted (but did not require) that assessments be against the person holding the tax title; they could also be, and were authorized in the first instance to be, against the "true owner." (It's like my saying that the proper party to serve in a tort action involving a car shall be deemed to be the owner, "and so shall the Registrar of Motor Vehicles." That means I can serve either.) Homer seems to disagree.

It is no longer possible as an alternative measure for the town to assess the party holding under an unforeclosed tax deed, because the language in the statute has been removed.