Classified Forest Land
Chapter 61 Classified Forest Land
Property must consist of at least 10 contiguous acres of land under the same ownership, be devoted to growth of forest products and be managed under a 10 year management plan approved and certified by the State Forester in order to qualify for and retain classification as forest land under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 61. Buildings and other structures located on the property, as well as the land on which a residencies located or regularly used for residential purposes, do not qualify for classification and will continue to be assessed a regular local property tax.
A written application must be submitted to the State Forester before July 1st of the year before the start of the fiscal year for which taxation as classified land is sought. The State Forester will certify whether the property qualifies as forest land and is being managed under an approved 10 year forest management plan. A written application for classification must be submitted to the Board of Assessors before October 1st of the same year. The parcel will remain classified as forest land provided a new certification by the State Forester and an approved forest management plan is submitted to the Board of Assessors every 10 years and the land otherwise continues to qualify under Chapter 61.
The Board of Assessors will recorded a statement at the Worcester District Registry of Deeds indicating that the land has been classified as forest land under Chapter 61. The applicant must pay all fees charged by the Registry of Deeds for recording or releasing the lien.
The applicant must pay an annual property tax to the Town. The tax will be assessed on the use value of the land for forestry purposes, rather than fair market value based on the land's highest and best use as would be the case if the land were not classified. The Farmland Valuation Advisory Commission determines the values annually. The tax will be due quarterly and at the same time as other property tax payments are due. Interest will be charged on any overdue taxes at the same rate applicable to overdue local property taxes.
Municipal Option to Purchase
The Town has an option to purchase any classified land whenever the property is going to be sold or converted to a residential, commercial or industrial use during a fiscal year it is classified or within one full fiscal year after it is removed from classification. Call the Assessors' Office for the legal procedure.
This option is not available to the Town and the notice requirement does not apply if the forest land certification is simply discontinued or a plan to build a residence for the owner, his family or an employee working full time in the forest use of the land.
One of two alternative penalty taxes must be paid whenever the land is no longer used for, or maintained in a use or condition that would qualify the land for classification as forest land under Chapter 61, horticultural land under Chapter 61A or recreational land under Chapter 61B. A roll back tax must be paid for a five year period if the use of the land changes to a non-qualifying use or condition. The roll back tax also includes interest at the rate of 5% per year on each year's tax savings.
An alternative conveyance tax instead if the land is sold for or converted to a non qualifying use within 10 years of the date I acquired it or the earliest date of its uninterrupted agricultural or horticultural use whichever is earlier and the conveyance tax is greater than the roll back tax. The conveyance tax will be equal to the conveyance tax rate applied to the sales price of the land or if converted to the fair market value of the land as determined by the Assessors.