Volunteer Tax Relief Program:
A program in which senior residents (age 60 or older) commit to work a specific number of hours for a municipal department in exchange for a credit applied to a portion of their property taxes.
The program requires that participants meet an income test for eligibility.
Department Heads are invited to submit placement requests for positions within their departments. These positions must encompass work that could not otherwise be accomplished by regular paid staff. In other words, these positions must make a meaningful contribution to the departments' operation but are not positions that otherwise would be filled by union personnel.
To fund the program, towns passed an article at the Annual Town Meeting adopting the program. The funding must come from the Assessor's overlay account.
- To enhance the ability of the Town Departments to extend their services as needed beyond the scope achievable with current staffing and appropriations;
- Provide a pool of qualified workers with applicable life skills for a variety of tasks;
- Provide quality service to the Town at a reasonable cost;
- Retain seniors and their expertise in the community by reducing their tax burden;
- Enable seniors to be actively employed and self-sufficient;
- Increase interest and involvement in Town government among seniors.
Program Operations and Administration :
The Senior Volunteer Property Tax Work Off Program is administered by the Senior Center Director. Strict confidentiality is maintained at all times.
Applications and Program Guidelines are available at the Senior Center. After all completed applications are screened for eligibility and positions are filled, records are kept at the COA office. All applicants must reapply for the program each year. Individual preferences are considered whenever possible, as are Department Head requests for a particular participant.
Acceptance is determined by:
- Eligibility: The applicant must meet all the qualifications and submit all required documentation for the program, as stated on the program application and by the designed deadline.
- Qualifications and skills which best meet the available positions.
- Financial need.
- Date of Application: No applications will be considered before or after the designated open application period. The application period is 9/1 - 9/30.
The Department Head (or his/her designee) who will supervise the work will interview the prospective participant (s) and has the final decisions on the applicant's suitability for the position. Applicants retain the right to refuse placement, but placement is not guaranteed. Once the individual is placed, a start date is determined and the Senior Center Director must be informed.
The Department Head (or his/her designee) will maintain and keep the participant's time sheet in his/her possession. The Department Head shall submit monthly time sheets to the COA Director. All hours must be completed by August 31st of each year. The Senior Center Director will submit a Certificate of Completion to the Assessor's Office who will credit the participant's property tax account.
A. SCOPE OF ABATEMENT
- < Age -- Taxpayers must be over 60 years of age or older at the close of the taxable year to earn a property tax abatement under the program.
- Ownership -- Taxpayers must be the assessed owner of the property on which the tax to be abated is assessed, or have acquired ownership before the work is performed and the abatement applied. If the property is subject to a trust, the senior must have legal title, i.e., be one of the trustees, on the applicable January 1 assessment date, or at the time the work is performed.
- Maximum Abatement and Hourly Rate -- The maximum abatement taxpayers may earn is $1,000 per fiscal year. In addition, they cannot receive credit for their services at an hourly rate higher than the state's minimum wage. As of 2016,, the rate is $11.00 an hour. Communities should also set the rate no lower than the federal minimum rate unless advised by the Wages and Hours Division of the United States Department of Labor that the federal fair labor standards act does not apply to the program.
- Personal Exemptions and Deferrals -- Taxpayers may earn abatements under the work-off program in addition to any property tax exemptions they may be eligible for under other statutes, such as personal exemptions under G.I. Ch. 59 ss5 or residential exemptions under G.L. Ch. 59 ss5C.
B. CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION
- The COA Directors and department supervising the senior volunteer services must certify to the assessors the hours of services performed by the taxpayer before the actual tax for the fiscal year is committed. The certification must state the amount actually earned as of that time. Services performed after that date are credited towards the next fiscal year's actual tax bill to the extent consistent with the program rules established by the municipality. A copy of the certification must also be given to the senior before the actual tax bill is issued.
C. ACCOUNTING FOR ABATEMENTS
- Earned reductions must be applied to the actual tax bills for the fiscal year. The assessors must commit the full tax for the year and process the gross amount earned as certified by the board, officer or department supervising the taxpayer's volunteer services as an abatement to be charged against the overlay account.