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Career Story: Municipal Tax Assessor For A Mid-Sized New England Town

Municipal Tax Assessor For A Mid-Sized New England Town

Job Title: Municipal Tax Assessor

Type of Company: I work for a local municipality in the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Education: I took various college accounting courses at UMass-Lowell. Assessors are required to complete 45 hours/credits on assessing property every three years to remain accredited. These classes are conducted by the Massachusetts Assessors Associations as well as the International Assessors Association.

Previous Experience: I worked with budgets and the Assessor's Department for eleven years as the administrative assistant to the City Manager prior to becoming an assessor. I was involved as a young adult with real estate transactions and rental income property through my family.

Job Tasks: The main responsibility of my position is to make sure that all properties within the city limits are assessed, for tax purposes, for equity at the same level. This is accomplished by inspecting each property to ensure the information we have on our assessment rolls is accurate. The inspections are cyclical and ongoing and once the city has been inspected, the inspections start all over.

The Assessor's Department is also responsible for personal exemptions for the elderly, veterans and the blind. These exemptions are filed annually and must meet certain criteria to be accepted.

The municipality I work in sends approximately 90,000 excise bills out a year. When car owners sell, transfer or cancel their plates during the year, they can file, and are entitled to an abatement of the unused portion of the year's tax.

As the tax assessor, I am also responsible for assessing personal property (furniture, fixtures etc.) for all businesses in the city.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of this job is dealing with the public, especially the elderly tax payers. It is a pleasure to help them apply for a tax exemption on their taxes and listen to their life stories as we help them. They are so thankful for anything we can do for them.

The worst part of the job is to deal with irate taxpayers who don't want to pay their fair share of taxes. There are some taxpayers that have a nasty attitude before they walk into the office. When I hear someone raising his voice to one of my staff members, I take over dealing with them to save my employee from getting verbally abused and upset. Luckily this type of issue is not an everyday occurrence, and most of the people who come into the office to talk about their assessments/taxes are patient and courteous.

Job Tips: Anyone who is interested in becoming a tax assessor should take as many courses in math as possible. They should also take some real estate classes to prepare for the courses they will be mandated to take to become an accredited assessor. I would suggest that anyone contemplating a career in this field should enjoy dealing with people, since you will be talking to them and explaining processes every day.

Additional Thoughts: The thing that surprises me most about the career I have chosen is that some people have the misconception that I raise values arbitrarily to raise money to fund the city budget. This does not, and cannot, happen. The values on residential property are set by the real estate market - when the sale prices go up, the assessments increase. When the sale prices decrease, so do the assessments. On the commercial and industrial properties, we look at the information provided by owners on the income they make from rentals and the expenses they incur in maintaining the building.

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