Chapter 
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Chapter 61 
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Chapter 61 Law

CHAPTER 61. CLASSIFICATION AND TAXATION OF FOREST LANDS AND FOREST PRODUCTS.

Chapter 61: Section 1. Definitions.

Section 1. For purposes of this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires, the following words shall have the following meanings:

"Cut", severed or taken from the soil.

"Forest land", land that is at least sixteen and seven-tenths per cent stocked, that contains at least seven and five-tenths square feet of basal area per acre by forest trees of any size; or that formerly had such tree cover and is not currently developed for non-forest use; or that is a plantation containing at least five hundred trees per acre.

"Forest products", wood, timber, Christmas trees, other tree forest growth and any other hardwood product produced by forest vegetation.

"Certification", approval of a forest management plan by the state forester.

"Contiguous land", land separated from other land under the same ownership by a public or private way, waterway or an easement for water supply.

"Forest management plan" or "management plan", a completed copy of a form provided by the state forester executed by the owner and the state forester that provides for a ten year program of forest management, including intermediate and regeneration cuttings.

"Cutting plan", a completed copy of a form approved by the state forester which describes the species, dimensions, and quantity of a proposed forest crop to be harvested and which is certified by the state forester as being in accordance with the provisions of section forty to forty-six, inclusive, of chapter one hundred and thirty-two.

"Not used for purposes incompatible with forest production", uses formally proposed or permitted that do not interfere with or reduce the quantity and quality of a continuous forest crop.

"Owner", person or persons holding title to a parcel of forest land.

"Parcel", land held by the same owner under a deed of title upon which no subdivision plan is on file and which has no encumbrance incompatible with the provisions of this chapter.

"Region", one of the five geographic subdivisions of the commonwealth utilized for administrative purposes by the department of environmental management.

"Stumpage value", fair market value of forest products immediately prior to severing.

Chapter 61: Section 2. Classification of forest lands by assessors; application.

Section 2. Except as otherwise herein provided, all forest land, parcels of not less than ten contiguous acres in area, used for forest production shall be classified by the assessors as forest land upon written application sufficient for identification and certification by the state forester. Such application shall be accompanied by a forest management plan.

Upon receipt of such certified application, the board of assessors shall, upon a form approved by the commissioner of revenue, forthwith record in the registry of deeds of the county or district in which the parcel is situated, a statement of such classification which shall constitute a lien upon the land for taxes levied under the provisions of this chapter. The statement shall name the owner and a description of the land. The assessors shall return a copy of said recorded statement to the office of the state forester containing the date, book and page number of such recording. Said lien may be discharged by the board of assessors. All recording fees in connection with such statement or discharge shall be paid by the owner of such parcel.

Land shall be removed from classification by the assessor unless, at least every ten years, the owner files with said assessor a new certification by the state forester. The owner of classified forest land shall pay a fee to the commonwealth at the time of application for certification or recertification, said fee to be collected by the state forester based on a per acre administrative cost assessment contained in agency regulations relative to this program, to which shall be added a surcharge at that percentage calculated annually by the commissioner of administration and finance as the set indirect cost rate for that fiscal year for the department of environmental management. the state forester, or his designee, shall have the authority to enter on private lands for the purpose of making investigations to assure compliance with this chapter. Classified forest land shall be subject to the taxes provided in section three. Buildings and structures and the land on which they are erected and which is accessory to their use shall not be entitled to be classified as forest land.

If a single parcel or tract of land consists in part of forest land and in part of other land, the portion consisting of forest land, if said portion comprises at least ten contiguous acres in area and otherwise conforms to the requirements of this chapter shall be classified forest land upon application as hereinbefore provided.

An application to have land classified as forest land shall be submitted to the state forester prior to July first in any year. After certification the owner shall submit to the assessors prior to September first of the same year evidence of certification together with the approved management plan. Classification shall take effect on January first of the year following certification and taxation under this chapter, with the exception of the products tax payable as a condition of classification, shall commence with the fiscal year beginning after said January first. The state forester shall inspect such land and determine whether or not cutting has occurred within two years prior to such classification. After such inspection the state forester shall determine the stumpage value of the forest products cut and shall inform the assessors in writing of such value and the assessor shall assess the tax provided in section three, the payment of which shall be a condition of classification.

When in judgement of the assessors, land which is classified as forest land or which is the subject of an application for such classification is not being managed under a program, or is being used for purposes incompatible with forest production, or does not otherwise qualify under this chapter, the assessors may, on or before December first in any year file an appeal in writing mailed by certified mail to the state forester requesting a denial of application or, in the case of classified land, requesting removal of the land from such classification. Such appeal shall state the reasons for such request. A copy of the appeal shall be mailed by the assessors by certified mail to the owner of the land. the state forester may initiate, on or before December first of any year, a proceeding to remove land from classification, sending notice of his action by certified mail to the assessors and the owner of such land. the state forester may deny the owner's application, may withdraw all or part of the land from classification, or may grant the application, imposing such terms and conditions as he deems reasonable to carry out the purpose of this chapter, and shall notify the assessors and the owner of his decision no later than March first of the following year. If the owner or the assessors are aggrieved by his decision they may, on or before April fifteenth, give notice to the state forester of a claim of appeal. the state forester shall convene on or before May fifteenth, a panel in the region in which the land is located. Said panel shall consist of three members, one of whom shall be named by the state forester, one of whom shall be named by the assessors, and one of whom shall be named by the state forester and the assessors. Said panel shall give notice of the date and place of the hearing in writing to the parties seven days at least before the date of said hearing. The panel shall furnish the parties, in writing, a notice of its decision within ten days after the adjournment of said hearing. Decisions of the panel shall be by majority vote of its members. If the owner or the assessors are aggrieved by such decision, they may, within forty-five days from receipt of the decision, petition either the superior court in the county in which the land is located for a review of such decision under the provisions of chapter thirty A or the appellate tax board under the provisions of chapter fifty-eight A, and said land shall not be classified or withdrawn from classification until the final determination of such petition. the state forester may adopt such regulations as he deems necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.

Chapter 61: Section 3. Annual products tax and land tax.

Section 3. The owner of classified forest land shall pay annually a products tax equal to eight per cent of the stumpage value of all forest products cut therefrom with authorization of the owner. The owner shall furnish the assessors with notice of all cutting whether for personal or commercial purposes, and shall pay a products tax thereon.

The state forester shall furnish the assessors all cutting plans filed under section forty to forty-six, inclusive, of chapter one hundred and thirty-two or under the forest management plan.

The assessors shall annually on or before April first give written notice to each owner of classified forest land that said owner is required to make such payment. The owner shall annually before May first make a return, on such forms as shall be approved by the state forester, setting forth the amount of forest products cut from classified forest land during the preceding calendar year and such other information as may be required for assessment of the products tax. On the basis of such return, or any other available information, the assessors shall assess such products tax.

The owner shall also pay, annually, a land tax based upon application of the local rate applicable to commercial property on five per cent of the fair cash valuation placed on said land under the provisions of chapter fifty-nine, said tax to be assessed annually by the assessors, but in no event at a valuation of less than ten dollars per acre. (Amended by 1986, 557, Sec. 70.)

The products tax and the land tax shall be committed to the collector for collection in the same manner as taxes assessed under chapter fifty-nine. The collector shall notify the person assessed of the amount of the tax in the manner provided in section three of chapter sixty. For the collection of taxes under this chapter the collector shall have all the remedies provided by chapter sixty. Taxes so assessed shall be due and payable on October first of the year in which the return is required to be made, and if not paid on or before November first of the year of assessment, or within thirty days after notification of said taxes if said notice is given after October first, shall bear interest at the rate as provided in section fifty-seven of chapter fifty-nine. Any person aggrieved by the assessment of a tax under this section may within sixty days of the date of notice of the tax apply in writing to the assessors upon a form approved by the commissioner of revenue for abatement thereof, and if the assessors, after hearing, find the tax is excessive, they shall abate it in whole or in part. If the tax has been paid the town treasurer shall repay to the

person assessed the amount of such abatement with interest thereon at the current rate as provided in section sixty-nine of said chapter fifty-nine. Any person aggrieved by the refusal of the assessors to so abate a tax in whole or in part or by their failure to act upon such application may appeal to the appellate tax board within thirty days after the date of notice of decision of the assessors or within three months of the date of the application for abatement, whichever date is later. Any overpayment of tax determined by decision of said appellate tax board shall be reimbursed by the town treasurer with interest at the current rate as provided in said section sixty-nine.

Chapter 61: Section 4. Failure to file return; notice of delinquency; interest.

Section 4. If an owner of classified forest land fails to file a return required by section three the assessors shall send such owner a notice of delinquency and if such owner fails to file such return within twenty days of such notice the assessors shall determine the amount of the products tax due and assess and commit the same within two years after the date upon which the original return was due. The owner may apply to the assessors for abatement and appeal from their decision as provided in section three. A tax so committed shall bear interest from October first of the year in which the original return was due.

Chapter 61: Section 5. Special and betterment assessments.

Section 5. Classified forest land shall be included in the equalized valuation of the town under sections nine to ten C, inclusive, of chapter fifty-eight. Classified forest land shall be subject to special assessments and betterment assessments; provided, however, that such assessments, for purposes other than the installation of water pipes to provide fire protection to such adjacent forest land, shall become due and payable at the time when said land is removed from classification. (Amended by 1987, 89.)

Chapter 61: Section 6. Failure to file return; penalty.

Section 6. An owner of classified forest land, who received the notice provided in section three, fails to make return, shall be subject to a penalty of five dollars a day during the period of delinquency but the assessors may, for cause, abate such penalty in whole or in part; provided, that such penalty shall in no case exceed the amount of the products tax assessed under section three. Penalties assessed hereunder shall be added to the tax, and shall bear interest and be collected as a part of the tax.

Chapter 61: Section 7. Withdrawal of land from classification; withdrawal penalty tax.

Section 7. When the owner of classified land withdraws such land or any part thereof from classification, or upon a final determination that said land should be withdrawn from classification, he shall pay to the city or town a withdrawal penalty tax equal to the difference between the amount of taxes which would have been paid under chapter fifty-nine and the sum of the products tax established by section three of this chapter and the land taxes paid from the last prior certification under the provisions of this chapter, or from the immediately preceding five years, whichever period is the longer. There shall be added to the tax due, under this chapter, for each taxable year, an amount of interest determined at the rate as is established under section thirty-two of chapter sixty-two C. When said voluntary withdrawal occurs at the end of a completed certification period, credit against the withdrawal penalty tax shall be given for any tax payments made under the provisions of this chapter during the said certification period. No such credit for products tax shall be given if the land is withdrawn upon a final determination that the land was not properly classified or managed under a forest management plan, or if said land is withdrawn voluntarily by the owner at a time other than the end of the certification period.

Chapter 61: Section 8. Conversion of land to residential, industrial or commercial use; notice to city or town; first refusal option.

Section 8. Land taxed under this chapter shall not be sold for, or converted to, residential, industrial or commercial use while so taxed unless the city or town in which such land is located has been notified of the intent to sell for, or so convert to, such other use; provided, however, that the discontinuance of forest certification shall not, in itself, be deemed a conversion. Specific use of land for a residence for the owner or the parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, or brother or sister of the owner, or the surviving husband or wife of any deceased such relative, or for living quarters for any persons actively employed full time in the forest use of such land, shall not be deemed to be a conversion for purposes of this section and a certificate of the board of assessors, recorded with the registry of deeds, shall conclusively establish that a particular use is such a use. For a period of one hundred and twenty days subsequent to such notification, said city or town shall have, in the case of intended sale, a first refusal option to meet a bona fide offer to purchase said land, or, in the case of intended conversion not involving sale, an option to purchase said land at full and fair market value to be determined by impartial appraisal. After a public hearing, said city or town may assign either of such options to a nonprofit conservation organization under such terms and conditions as the mayor or board of selectmen deem appropriate. Such assignment shall be for the purpose of maintaining the major portion of the property subject to this assignment in use as forest land. Notice of such public hearing shall be given in accordance with the provisions of section twenty-three B of chapter thirty-nine. Such notice of intent shall be sent by the landowner by certified mail to the mayor and city council of a city, or to the board of selectmen of a town, to its board of assessors and to its planning board and conservation commission, if any, and said option period shall run from the day following the latest date of deposit of any such notices in the United States mail. No sale or conversion of such land shall be consummated unless and until either said option period shall have expired or the landowner shall have been notified in writing by the mayor or board of selectmen of the city or town in question that said option will not be exercised. Such option may be exercised only by written notice signed by the mayor or board of selectmen, mailed to the landowner by certified mail at such address as may be specified in his notice of intention and recorded with the registry of deeds, within the option period. If either option has been assigned to a nonprofit conservation organization as provided in this section, such written notice shall state the name and address of such organization and the terms and conditions of such assignment. An affidavit before a notary public that he has so mailed such notice of intent on behalf of a landowner shall conclusively establish the manner and time of the giving of such notice; and such an affidavit, and such a notice that the option will not be exercised, shall be recorded with the registry of deeds. Each notice of intention, notice of exercise of the option and notice that the option will not be exercised shall contain the name of the record owner of the land and description of the premises so to be sold or converted adequate for identification thereof; and each such affidavit before a notary public shall have attached to it a copy of the notice of intention to which it relates. Such notices of intention shall be deemed to have been duly mailed to the parties above specified if addressed to them in care of the town or city clerk; and in the case of notice to a city council or board or commission, addressed to it as such entity. The provisions of this section shall not be applicable with respect to a mortgage foreclosure sale, but the holder of a mortgage shall, at least ninety days before a foreclosure sale, send written notice of the time and place of such sale to the parties and in the manner above provided in this section for notice of intent to sell or convert, and the giving of such notice may be established by an affidavit as above set forth. (Amended by 1987, 142, Secs. 1 and 2.)