What is Current Use?
Massachusetts current use programs (Ch. 61, Ch. 61A, and Ch. 61B) were created to give preferential tax treatment to those landowners who maintain their property as open space for the purposes of timber production, agriculture or recreation. Chapter 61 was designed to classify forestland. Chapter 61A was designed to classify agricultural land which may include forestland and Chapter 61B was designed to classify recreational land which can also include forestland.
Forestland may be enrolled in either the Ch. 61 or Ch. 61A program and is taxed at the same rate. Taxes for those properties enrolled in Ch. 61/61A are determined based on the current use of the property (i.e., the productive potential of your land for growing trees), instead of the fair market or development value.
Recommended current use values for forest land are set on an annual basis by the Farm Land Advisory Committee on or before February 1 of a given calendar year.
For current Ch61/61A tax values see: Forest Land Valuation for Landowners and Foresters
Forestland may also be classified under Chapter 61B in a managed forest condition. Taxes for Chapter 61B are calculated using 25% of the current assessed value.
To calculate an estimate tax bill under a current use program see: Chapter 61B Calculator
Chapter 61 – The forestland program
Although forestland may be enrolled in any of the current use programs, Ch61 was created specifically for forestland.
In order to qualify for the Chapter 61 program, a landowner must have 10 or more contiguous acres of forest land and a long-term commitment to improving the "quality and quantity" of timber on that land. Other values such as wildlife, aesthetics, and recreation can also be incorporated into the management goals of the property through the Forest Stewardship Program . An approved, forest management plan describing and mapping property resources and making management recommendations objectives is required to guide management of the property. This plan is based on the landowner’s objectives and is renewed every ten years to reflect changing conditions, goals, etc. Click HERE to view a sample Chapter 61/Stewardship Plan.
To insure that land under Chapter 61 is actually managed in a long-term sustainable fashion, there is a penalty for withdrawal from the program and changing it to residential, industrial or commercial use. This penalty consists of payment for the difference between taxes paid and taxes deferred plus interest. The penalty is computed for the previous five years under certification.
Choosing a Program
The Chapter 61, and related 61A and 61B, programs are designed to help landowners afford to maintain farms, natural areas, and working forests. If you and your family have a long-term approach to the management of your land, please contact Your Service Forester or review the Chapter 61 law to determine which program is right for you.