Increased Residential Exemption Could Lower Taxes for Boston Homeowners

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The Boston City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal from District 9 City Councilor Mark Ciommo, and championed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, to increase the city's residential tax exemption -- a move that would lower the average property tax bill for a single-family, owner-occupied residence by $299 a year.

The City Council approved the proposal 12-0 (City Councilor Tim McCarthy was absent and thus didn't vote). Homeowners will see the lowered rates reflected in their third-quarter tax bills, which will be sent out at the end of the year.

The residential exemption for taxpayers who occupy their homes as their principal residence will increase from 30 percent to 35 percent of their homes' assessed value. The average property tax bill for residential taxpayers will decrease from $3,533 to $3,234, according to the city.

"The City of Boston has been rapidly growing and expanding over the past few years and it's paying off," said Walsh in a press release. "Whether they've lived here for decades or just moved in, our residents are the foundation to this vibrant and thriving city. We're happy to let Boston homeowners keep a little more money in their pockets come tax season with this increase in the residential exemption."

Ciommo filed the proposal after the state last week passed a law -- for which Mayor Walsh advocated -- that increased the maximum allowable residential exemption in Boston. The city's residential property tax exemption has not been raised since 2000.

The city's reasoning for increasing the tax exemption is that a "historically strong business and real estate climate in Boston has resulted in record new tax revenue growth" from new construction and properties being added to the tax base.

While voting in favor of the proposal, District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson expressed concern that the city has struggled to properly fund the Boston Public School in recent years, yet is advocating for tax breaks.

In Jamaica Plain, where property values, and therefore city assessments, have skyrocketed in recent years, the increased residential exemption could offer homeowners some property tax relief, although a continued rise in assessed values could effectively negate some of the benefit.