Land Tax Law
Chapter 61 Forest Land Tax Law
The Chapter 61 law provides a way for landowners to reduce their property taxes by up to 95% by enrolling in this program. To qualify for Chapter 61, a landowner must have 10 or more contiguous acres of forest land and a long term commitment to improving the timber quality on their woodlot.
To enroll in this program, a landowner must use a Licensed Forester to prepare a Forest Management Plan for the property and submit it to the Bureau of Forestry. Once the plan is approved, a copy is provided to the local town or city assessor’s office and is good for 10 years.
The first step is a systematic forest inventory on your property.
From the data collected in the field, a Forest Management Plan is written and consists of:
- A Description of all Forest Stands and Types. This includes: the tree species and condition in the overstory; the species of regeneration in the understory; soil types; and the recommended Management Practices.
- Forest Management Practices for all Forest Stands and Types. This describes the silvicultural practices and how they will improve your forest by thinnings or regeneration cuttings. The tree species and sizes to be removed are specified.
- A property map indicates the boundaries, the principal forest stands, roads, streams, wetlands, and other features.
The Forest Management Plan is written so that it meets all landowner objectives.
If a thinning or regeneration cutting is recommended, I mark the timber to be cut and file a Forest Cutting Plan with the Bureau of Forestry. I put the timber sale out to competitive bidding to reputable forest products companies to endure the highest price and that the timber harvest is done to the highest standards.
10 – 36 acres – $500
37 acres + – $500 + $10/acre over 36 acres
Boundary Location and Demarcation – Prior to conducting the forest inventory, a good map is required and the boundaries located in the field. A survey map is best while an assessor’s map can be used if there is an accurate description of the property in the deed that has bearings and distances for each boundary line. Part of the requirement for enrolling in Chapter 61 is that all boundaries be clearly marked in the field.
The Massachusetts Forest Stewardship Program
This is an educational program that teaches landowners about their woodlot and how to manage it. There are no strings attached but unlike Chapter 61, you do not receive a tax break for enrolling in this program. However, there are cost-sharing funds available for new plans and if a landowner is interested it can be combined with a Chapter 61 Plan.
A shelterwood regeneration cutting on a 200 acre woodlot in Warwick, MA. This property is enrolled in the Chapter 61 Forest Land Tax Program which reduces the owners’ property taxes by 95%.
A recently thinned oak, hardwoods forest stand on a 55 acre woodlot in Templeton, MA which is enrolled in the Forest Stewardship Program. By reducing competition from the lower quality trees, this high quality red oak pole timber will now grow at a much higher rate.