General Rules

Any person aggrieved by the assessment of a tax may apply in writing to the commissioner, on a form approved by him or her, for an abatement of such tax. The abatement application must be filed within the time prescribed by law.

Examples of abatements filed:

  • a taxpayer wishes to dispute an additional tax that was assessed as a result of a DOR audit;
  • after filing a tax return late and incurring late file penalties, a taxpayer can demonstrate that the late filing was due to reasonable cause;
  • after filing a tax return, a taxpayer discovers that he or she omitted certain deductions, or overstated income and thus overpaid taxes. For business taxpayers, an amended return should be filed to report this type of change.

The abatement of late interest is not discretionary and DOR does not have the authority to abate interest accrued on unpaid or late tax. Interest can be reduced only as a result of a tax that is being abated, or if the amount of interest charges was miscalculated.

Requests for abatements may be submitted in writing at any time:

  • within 3 years from the date of filing the return or due date, whichever is later,
  • within 2 years from the date the tax was assessed or deemed to be assessed, or
  • within 1 year from the date that the tax was paid, whichever is later.

Limitations on the Amount of a Refund Resulting from an Abatement:
Where a refund or credit results from an abatement, the amount of such refund or credit is limited to the amount paid, or deemed paid pursuant to section 79, within 3 years of the date that the application for abatement is filed, taking into account any extension of time for filing the return.

If the taxpayer has filed a tax return and has filed an application for abatement within the next three years, the refund or credit amount is measured by and limited to the tax paid within three years before the taxpayer filed the application for abatement, plus any extension of time the taxpayer had for filing the tax return. Tax returns filed or tax payments made before the prescribed due date (determined without regard to any extension of time to file the return) are deemed filed or paid on the prescribed due date. 

If the three-year period for filing an application for abatement has expired, and an application for abatement is filed within two years of an assessment, the Commissioner may grant an abatement up to the amount of that assessment. If the time for filing an abatement application has otherwise expired and an application for abatement is filed within one year of a payment of a portion of an assessment, the Commissioner may grant an abatement up to the amount of the payment.

Unsubstantiated Abatement Applications Filed on or after July 1, 2003:
A taxpayer filing an abatement application is required to include all supporting information, documents, explanations, arguments and authorities that will reasonably enable the commissioner to determine whether the applicant is entitled to the abatement requested. The abatement application is not considered complete until all such information has been received by the Department, and may be denied by the Department, without prejudice, if the taxpayer fails to provide information requested by the Department within thirty (30) days from the date of the request. In that situation, the taxpayer will be notified that the abatement is being denied based on lack of sufficient information.

Following a denial of an unsubstantiated abatement application, the taxpayer may file a new, properly substantiated abatement application with the Customer Service Bureau of the Department or, in the alternative, appeal to the Appellate Tax Board or the probate court on the merits within the time limitations of G.L. c. 62C, Section 39.

Note: Any subsequent application for abatement must be filed within the time limitations of G.L. c. 62C, Section 37 without regard to the prior filing.

A second filing of an abatement application will not be acted upon by the Department if:

  • the application does not contain information previously requested by the Department; or
  • the application contains the same information submitted with the prior filing without additional information; or
  • the application is filed after the taxpayer has appealed to the Appellate Tax Board or Probate Court.

Collection Activity on Tax, Interest or Penalties in Dispute: 
Taxpayers generally are not obligated to pay and will not be subject to involuntary collection activities on tax, interest or penalties that are in dispute while abatement applications are under consideration, or while any denial of an abatement claim is on appeal at the Appellate Tax Board. However, interest, and in some cases penalties, will accrue on any unpaid amount for which taxpayers are ultimately held responsible. Please note that the statute of limitations on collections will be suspended during the appeal process. Therefore, taxpayers may wish to pay amounts they are disputing to stop the accrual of interest and penalties. A refund, with interest, will be issued if the abatement is ultimately approved or the taxpayer has prevailed in the administrative appeal process, and the assessment has been paid. 

How to File

Business Tax Applications for Abatement

Beginning November 30, 2015, business taxpayers can dispute an audit finding or a penalty online through MassTaxConnect. Look for “File a Dispute” under “I Want To” in your account for each tax type. Keep in mind that some taxpayers are required to file applications for abatement electronically. Refer to TIR 15-9, Electronic Filing and Payment Requirements Extended to Additional Tax Types, to see if the electronic filing and payment requirements apply to you. Filing electronically is always the quickest option but if you are not required to file electronically, you can file Form ABT, Application for Abatement (available November 30th). Note that Form ABT must be used to dispute a Responsible Person determination.

Personal Income Tax Amended Feturns and Applications for Abatement

Resident individuals should use WebFile for Income (WFI) or the paper Form CA-6, Application for Abatement/Amended Return, pdf format of CA-6.pdf
 to file either an amended return or an application for abatement. Filing online through WFI will result in faster refunds. Nonresident individuals, estates and trusts must use Form CA-6. When personal income tax, estate and fiduciary accounts are converted to MassTaxConnect, Form CA-6 will be eliminated and expanded online options will be available through MassTaxConnect.

Note: No abatement can be considered if an original return has not been filed.

Do not file an Application for Abatement for the following processing/posting problems:

  • misapplied payments;
  • lost checks;
  • carry forwards not applied to the following year.

For assistance in filling out a claim or to inquire about an existing claim:

  • Call Customer Service Bureau at 617-887-MDOR (6367) or toll-free in Massachusetts at 800-392-6089, or
  • Write to Customer Service Bureau, PO Box 7010, Boston, 02204.

When to File

Massachusetts requires that an abatement application  be received by DOR or be postmarked by the United States mail within the prescribed time limits. See Statute of Limitations.

Note: If the Commissioner and the taxpayer have agreed to extend the period for assessment of a tax pursuant to Section 27 of Chapter 62C, the deadline for filing an application for abatement of such tax extends to the end of the agreed extended period.

Two-Year Statute of Limitations Period:
Effective immediately, the two-year statute of limitations period begins to run from the date which is printed on the Notice of Assessment form as the "Notice Date." The date(s) which appears in the Notice of Assessment column headed "Assessment Date" will no longer be the date(s) from which the two-year statute begins to run, but will still be considered the date(s) upon which the tax was actually assessed for all other purposes. 

Unpaid Taxes Not Warranting Collection

The Commissioner is authorized to abate the unpaid portion of the assessment of any tax or any liability if: 

  1. the amount due does not exceed fifty dollars ($50); and
  2. the commissioner determines, under uniform rules prescribed by him that the administration and collection costs involved would not warrant collection of the amount due.

Massachusetts References: