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Real Estate Taxes

Under Maine law all real estate located in the state that is valued and the status of the property (ownership, amount completed if under construction, etc.) is fixed on April 1st of each calendar year. The actual date that taxes are due, however, varies in each municipality. Maine cities and towns operate on fiscal years that are set under local law or custom. Many municipalities operate with fiscal years commencing on January 1st or July 1st of each year. Towns and cities that operate on a fiscal year commencing in July will use the previous April 1st as the status and valuation date. Each municipality also independently sets the date or dates on which each year's taxes are due and the number of payment installments.

Tax bills usually are sent out a few days after the date that the tax rolls are "committed" for collection. The "commitment" of property taxes is the official act of the assessor or assessors executing a certificate of commitment and thereby "committing" the taxes to the municipality's tax collector for collection. Before taxes can be committed:
  1. the assessor or assessors have finished their job of identifying and valuing all taxable real estate in the municipality that is subject of property taxes,
  2. the legislative body of the town or city has completed and approved its annual budget, and
  3. the municipal officers have determined the amount of tax revenues that the municipality must raise through property taxes to enable the municipality to complete its programs and operate under its budget.
It is through this process that tax rate, expressed as the mil rate (dollars per $1000), is derived. The mil rate, when applied determines the amount of taxes for each property. The municipal officers, through the budget process approved by the legislative body of the city or town, have arrived at a figure representing the total amount of revenues that will be needed to operate the municipality for the particular year. They then obtain from the assessor or assessors the total value of all taxable property in the municipality. Dividing the amount of revenues needed by the total taxable value derives a fraction (expressed as dollars per thousand, i.e. mils) that represents the factor that when multiplied against the value of each taxable property will result in the property's taxes.

It is not uncommon for a municipality to change its tax periods or installment dates from year to year. In the event that a municipality changes its tax year from a January-December to a July-June tax year it will usually adopt a one-time transitional or interim tax year. The valuation and property status for the interim year will still be fixed as of April 1st of the year and there will be a tax assessed that is proportionally representative of the period for the interim year.

Here are some typical property tax programs followed by Maine municipalities:
  • Municipality's tax year is July 1-June 30 with tax payments due in two installments; the first due in late August, September or October and the second installment due in February, March or April.
  • Municipality uses the same tax year, July 1st through June 31st, but requires taxes to be paid in four quarterly installments
  • Municipality's tax year is January 1st to December 31st, taxes are due in one installment
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