Government Owns 79% of Boston’s Exempt Area

Ed’s, Med’s and cultural institutions = about 5% of land area

Boston’s tax-exempt land totals nearly half of all land area in the city. Federal, state, city and other governmental land comprise 18.45 square miles (sq. mi.), while privately owned tax-exempt property, including medical and higher education institutions, churches and others totals 4.98 sq. mi.  Public and private tax-exempt area combined makes up 49% of the total city land area of 47.84 sq. mi.

Public Tax-Exempt Land Area
Government-owned tax-exempt land represents 78.7% of all tax-exempt real property in Boston.  The Commonwealth owns 48.5% of total tax-exempt land followed by the City of Boston (28.6%) and US Government (1.6%).  In total, publicly owned tax-exempt area represents 38.6% of all land area in the City.

Boston Tax-Exempt Land Area


Category Area (sq. mi.) % Exempt Area % City Area
US Government 0.37 1.6% 0.8%
MA State 11.37 48.5% 23.8%
Boston City 6.71 28.6% 14.0%
Total Public 18.45 78.7% 38.6%
Literary 1.61 6.9% 3.4%
Char./Benevolent 0.90 3.8% 1.9%
Religious 1.89 8.1% 4.0%
121-A 0.26 1.1% 0.5%
Other Private 0.32 1.4% 0.7%
Total Private 4.98 21.3% 10.4%
Total Tax-Exempt 23.44 100.0% 49.0%
Taxable Property 24.41   51.0%
Taxable & Exempt Property 47.84   100.0%

Private Tax-Exempt Land Area
Private tax-exempt property makes up 21.3% of total tax-exempt land and 10.4% of total city area. Religious property, such as churches and cemeteries, constitutes 4% of total city area. Medical, educational and cultural institutions constitute about 5% of city land.

exemptTax-Exempt Value
Boston’s total assessed property value in FY17 is $190.3B, of which taxable property represents $138.1B or 72.6% and tax-exempt $52.2B or 27.4%.  The City does not continually update tax-exempt values so the description of tax-exempt property is limited to area here.

However, the City did determine the property value of the 49 largest medical, educational and cultural tax-exempt institutions as part of its payment-in-lieu of taxes (PILOT) program.  Currently, the property value of these institutions totals $13.9B, which represents 47.8% of total private exempt value.  The $13.9B also represents 26.7% of all tax-exempt value and 7.3% of total property value in Boston.

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