(1) Disclosure by Commissioner of Revenue. The disclosure by the commissioner, or by any deputy, assistant, clerk or assessor, or other employee of the Commonwealth or of any city or town therein, to any person but the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s representative, of any information contained in or set forth by any return or document filed with the commissioner is prohibited.
(2) Production by Taxpayer. Massachusetts State tax returns are privileged, and a taxpayer cannot be compelled to produce them in discovery.
(3) Exceptions. Subsection (a)(1) does not apply in proceedings to determine or collect the tax, or to certain criminal prosecutions.
(1) General Rule. Federal tax returns are subject to a qualified privilege. The taxpayer is entitled to a presumption that the returns are privileged and are not subject to discovery.
(2) Exceptions. A taxpayer who is a party to litigation can be compelled to produce Federal tax returns upon a showing of substantial need by the party seeking to compel production.
Subsection (a). This subsection is taken nearly verbatim from G. L. c. 62C, § 21(a). General Laws c. 62C, § 21(b), sets forth twenty-three exceptions, most of which pertain to limited disclosures of tax information to other government agencies or officials.
The commissioner also has authority to disclose tax information to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States and certain tax officials in other jurisdictions. See G. L. c. 62C, § 22.
A violation of G. L. c. 62C, § 21, may be punishable as a misdemeanor. G. L. c. 62C, § 21(c).
The privilege applicable to State tax returns in the hands of the taxpayer is set forth in Finance Comm’n of Boston v. Commissioner of Revenue, 383 Mass. 63, 67–72, 417 N.E.2d 945, 948–950 (1981). See also Leave v. Boston Elevated Ry. Co., 306 Mass. 391, 402–403, 28 N.E.2d 483, 489 (1940).
Subsection (b). This subsection is derived from Finance Comm’n of Boston v. McGrath, 343 Mass. 754, 766–768, 180 N.E.2d 808, 816–817 (1962).
The conditional privilege against disclosure of the contents of Federal tax returns does not forbid disclosure of the defendant’s failure to file such a return. A.C. Vaccaro, Inc. v. Vaccaro, 80 Mass. App. Ct. 635, 639–640, 955 N.E.2d 299, 303–304 (2011).