Massachusetts Appeals Court Rejects Double Taxation Argument



By: Ben N. Dunlap 

In Murrow v. Bd. of Assessors of Bos., the petitioner Murrow, a Boston taxpayer, asserted the City of Boston (the “City”) cannot tax both the common area of a condominium, owned by the unit owners, and her easement interest in a parking space on the same land. The Appeals Court disagreed with that position in a February 6, 2023 decision.  

In 1987, Murrow paid the developer of the condominium located in Boston’s North End $33,000 for a “perpetual and exclusive” easement to use the parking space at issue. For thirty-one years, the City did not assess tax on the easement. Then, in 2018, for the first time, the City assessed Murrow’s easement as a “present interest in real estate.” The City appraised the easement at a value of $56,000 and issued Murrow a tax bill for $590.24. 

Murrow challenged the assessment arguing the City’s decision results in improper double taxation because the parking space was already taxed as part of the condominium common area. Interestingly, Murrow is not a unit owner. Her only interest at the condominium is her parking easement. She sought an abatement of the tax assessed. The assessors disagreed with her position, asserting Massachusetts statute, G. L. c. 59, § 11 makes Murrow’s easement a “present interest in real estate” subject to taxation. The Appellate Tax Board agreed with the assessor.  

The Appeals Court also agreed, holding Massachusetts case law “make[s] plain that an easement in gross for parking, reserved by a condominium declarant from the interests submitted under a master deed to the condominium form of ownership pursuant to G. L. c. 183A, is not a part of the condominium common areas,” so, “such an easement is subject to taxation as an interest separate from the units in the condominium.” Therefore, the tax is not duplicative, and Murrow, whose use of the parking space is “exclusive, perpetual in duration, and freely transferable,” should pay taxes on it. 

Moreover, it appeared the facts did not bear out the theory of double taxation. The Appeals Court noted that each unit and each parking space was taxed separately. The condominium did not pay taxes on the parking spaces. Thus, despite the parking spaces being physically located in the condominium common area, the unit owners paying condominium dues did not pay taxes on the parking spaces. Accordingly, Murrow was liable for the taxes assessed on her parking space.    

For more information, contact Ben N. Dunlap or your local FMG attorney