Informational Alert | Coronavirus Updates
NOTICE:

The Finance Department will be open to members of the public, by appointment only, Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Appointments are available for tax title services, refund processing, registry hold releases, and other matters. Appointments can be made online, by phone at 617-349-4220, or by email at treasurer@cambridgema.gov.

Finance

Picture of City Seal

The Finance Department is responsible for the planning, implementation, oversight, integrity and reporting of the City's operating and capital finances. The Finance Department processes payments for real estate and personal property taxes, municipal lien certificates, motor vehicle excise tax, and water bills.  The Finance Department includes Assessing, Auditing, Budget, Information Technology, Personnel, Purchasing, and Treasury.  For more information, call 617-349-4220 or email Finance@CambridgeMA.gov.

Payments are considered made when received by the Collector. We do not accept postmarked or mailing dates. Please plan accordingly when mailing payments or using the Payment Drop Box.

Payment Drop Box located behind City Hall & Online Payment System

A payment drop box is located behind Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Avenue, for taxpayers who wish to make payments (checks and money orders preferred) directly to the City. Taxpayers can also make online or mail payments.

The City of Cambridge is temporarily absorbing all credit card and ACH fees relating to online payments of Water/Sewer Bills and Motor Vehicle Excise Bills, paid through our Invoice Cloud payment portal. This does not apply to Real Estate and Personal Property tax payments.

Individuals using the payment drop box option should ensure that their payments are in a sealed envelope, contain a payment stub, and include the bill number, parcel ID, or other identifying information, including a phone number on their check. Individuals can use the payment drop box to make Real Estate, Water/Sewer, Excise, Parking Ticket, or other payments. Individuals should not make cash payments via the payment drop box.

Excise Bills Notice

The Registry of Motor Vehicles has changed their valuation method for Excise Bills. Previously, they would round the valuation to the nearest $50 mark. Now they are using the exact value of the vehicle. This can result in minor adjustments to the tax amount due. Customers who have seen a stagnant excise bill over the past few years may now notice a slight change in their valuation amount or tax amount.

Tips and FAQs

City of Cambridge Banking Relationships

The City of Cambridge’s (the “City’s”) banking services are provided by Century Bank & Trust located in Medford, MA.  The following services fall under the City’s contract with Century Bank & Trust:

  • depository accounts
  • checking accounts for vendors and payroll payments
  • lockbox services for utility and property taxes
  • ACH and wire processing 
The City also accepts bids from local banking institutions for the purchase of certificates of deposit (“CDs”) semiannually, all of which must be fully collateralized.  Currently, the City has investments in the following local banks:
  • East Cambridge Savings Bank
  • Radius Bank
  • Harbor One
  • Leader Bank
  • Cambridge Savings Bank
  • People’s United Bank
  • Rockland Trust Bank
  • East Boston Savings Bank
Massachusetts Municipal Depository Trust (“MMDT”) is another investment tool utilized by the City.  This is an investment pool open to all municipalities in the Commonwealth and is managed by Federated Investments.  The City purchases investments in the cash portfolio because that is a suitable and authorized investment for general fund surplus cash under MGL c.44, sections 54 & 55.  
A portion of the City’s Trust Fund and the Other Public Employee Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund investments are managed by Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.  The City’s portfolios include investments in government securities, certificates of deposit, corporate fixed income, and equities listed on the Massachusetts legal equities list.  
Finally, the Cambridge Retirement System (“CRS”) is a defined benefit contributory retirement system created under MGL c. 32.  CRS is administered by the Cambridge Retirement Board which has full discretion over investment decisions.  The Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (“PERAC”) is the Commonwealth’s oversight authority for all public employee retirement boards in Massachusetts.
 

As of October 18, 2020 

Convenience Fees Associated with Online Payments

Due to the growing number of requests made on behalf of taxpayers, the City decided to include the collection of real estate and personal property bills to the existing online payments, which were water/sewer and excise payments.   

What options do I have to pay my real estate tax bill? 

The City of Cambridge offers several options for the collection of your real estate tax payments.  You can make payments during business hours at the Tax Collector’s Office at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave.  You can mail your payment to City Hall or the lockbox service.  In addition to the traditional means of collection methods, the City offers online payments via its website using a credit card, debit card or electronic check. With the exception of water and sewer payments, the City accepts VISA, MasterCard, Discover and American Express for credit card payments. 

If you have any questions regarding the collection processes offered by the City, please contact the Tax Collector’s Office at 617-349-4220. 

Why does the City charge convenience fees for real estate and personal property payments via the website? 

Municipalities cannot legally absorb the costs for credit or debit card transactions for any online payments for real estate or personal property. For Fiscal Year 2021, fees relating to Water/Sewer Bills and Motor Vehicle Excise will be suspended.

Why did the City implement the convenience fees for water/sewer and excise payments via the website?

Since the implementation of online payments for water/sewer and excise, the City has absorbed the convenience fees.  The number of taxpayers using the online system has grown tremendously over the last several years.   As a result, a greater percentage of the City budget has been allocated to the credit card processing costs.  Therefore, the City made a decision in FY 2012 to implement a convenience fee based system and refrain from passing along these costs to the taxpayers.  Online payments are offered as a convenience to the taxpayer.  The taxpayer still has the options to either mail the payments or pay them in person at the City Hall. 

Why is VISA not an accepted payment option for water/sewer bills? 

The City must follow the regulations set forth by VISA which states a convenience fee can only be charged for services/goods that fall into the Merchant Category Codes (MCC) including Governmental and Educational services. Utility Bills are not considered Governmental or Educational services by VISA.  As a result, the City is restricted to only offering MasterCard, Discover, and American Express, all of which allow for third party convenience fees to be accessed.

What does the convenience fee cover?

The fees associated with online payments are assessed by the third party for the handling, bank processing, transaction fees and delivery of online payment services offered to the taxpayer.  The City does not receive any revenue from the convenience fees collected. 

Is the City competitive with other cities and towns in regards to the convenience fees? 

All municipalities are paying approximately the same costs for convenience fees per transaction.  Municipalities cannot legally absorb the cost for credit and debit card transactions for online payments for real estate and personal property.  The fees associated with water/sewer and excise payments are comparable with other communities. 

Do other cities or towns pass on convenience fees?

Legally, no municipality can absorb the convenience fees for real estate and personal property payments.  Based on our research, all other municipalities pass on the convenience fees for online payments.   This is not a cost traditionally offered by cities and towns.

Convenience Fee Table

Bill Type Credit Cards Accepted Debit Cards Accepted E-Check Accepted
Motor Excise
  • VISA
  • MasterCard (MC)
  • Discover
  • American Express

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.00

Cards with all Consumer Debit logos

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.00

Electronic Check (ACH) via bank account

Fee: $0.40 flat fee per transaction

Example: $100 payment, $2.75 fee Example: $100 payment, $2.75 fee Example: $100 payment, $0.40 fee
Real Estate
  • VISA
  • MasterCard (MC)
  • Discover
  • American Express

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.00

Cards with all Consumer Debit logos

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.00

Electronic Check (ACH) via bank account

Fee: $0.40 flat fee per transaction

Example: $2,000 payment, $55.00 fee Example: $2,000 payment, $55.00 fee Example: $2,000 payment, $0.40 fee
Personal Property
  • VISA
  • MasterCard (MC)
  • Discover
  • American Express

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.00

Cards with all Consumer Debit logos

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.00

Electronic Check (ACH) via bank account

Fee: $0.40 flat fee per transaction

Example: $250 payment, $6.88 fee Example: $250 payment, $6.88 fee Example: $250 payment, $0.40 fee
Utility
  • MasterCard (MC)
  • Discover
  • American Express

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.00

Cards with MasterCard logo

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.00

Electronic Check (ACH) via bank account

Fee: $0.40 flat fee per transaction

Example: $150 payment, $4.13 fee Example: $150 payment, $4.13 fee Example: $150 payment, $0.40 fee
Municipal Lien Certificate
  • VISA
  • MasterCard (MC)
  • Discover
  • American Express

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.95

Cards with all Consumer Debit logos

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.95

Electronic Check (ACH) via bank account

Fee: $0.40 flat fee per transaction

Example: $150 payment, $4.13 fee Example: $150 payment, $4.13 fee Example: $150 payment, $0.40 fee
City Scholarship Fund & Mayor's Disaster Relief Fund
  • VISA
  • MasterCard (MC)
  • Discover
  • American Express

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.95

Cards with all Consumer Debit logos

Fee: 2.75% of payment total, minimum fee of $1.95

Electronic Check (ACH) via bank account

Fee: $0.40 flat fee per transaction

Example: $150 donation, $4.13 fee Example: $150 donation, $4.13 fee Example: $150 donation, $0.40 fee

Finance Divisions

Administration Division

The Administration Division provides leadership to the operating divisions of the Department, as well as financial policy direction to other City departments. In addition, the annual independent audit of the City's financial records is budgeted in this division. The audit is performed in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) requirements, and assures potential purchasers of the City's notes and bonds of the City's fiscal soundness. The independent auditor also makes recommendations to improve the City's financial management.

Revenue Division

The Revenue Division is responsible for collecting and recording all of the City's revenues in a timely and accurate manner and providing a high level of customer service to taxpayers requesting assistance. During the course of a year, the Division processes approximately $430 million in receipts and issues approximately 190,000 bills and notices. The office works with the Law Department to initiate tax title and foreclosure proceedings for severely delinquent properties in order to protect the City's legal interests.

Treasury Division

The Treasury Division is comprised of two cost centers: Cash Management and Payroll. Cash Management is responsible for all of the City's banking, including the banking services contract; identification of all wire transfers into City bank accounts; investment of City cash; management of the City's trust funds; reconciliation of all cash; timely payment of all debt service obligations; and prompt payment of all approved obligations to vendors and contractors. 

Payroll's primary responsibility is the timely weekly payment of approximately 3,000 employees. It is also responsible for paying federal, state and Medicare withholdings; health and life insurance; deferred compensation; retirement; MBTA pass purchases; and administering garnishments and attachments to employees' wages. At year-end, Payroll prepares and distributes approximately 6,500 W2s. 


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