What is the sequence of steps DOR can take to collect tax that is due?
A taxpayer receives a bill in the form of a Notice of Assessment which states the date of the assessment, the amount of tax assessed, any accrued penalties, as well as 30 days of interest. If the amount stated on the Notice of Assessment is not paid, a Demand for Payment will be issued. If the assessed tax is not appealed and no payment is mailed within 10 days, any one of the following actions may occur: the account may be subject to automated collection efforts, such as a bank account levy or a wage levy; the account may be referred to DOR's Collections Bureau; or the account may be referred to an outside collection agency. (A taxpayer will be notified at least 30 days before the account is referred to a collection agency.)

The Department can file a notice of tax lien on a taxpayer's property, or it can levy an asset, such as a bank account or accounts receivable. In either case, DOR will inform taxpayers that a notice of lien has been recorded against their property or that a levy has been served. (A tax lien on a property impedes the sale or transfer of the property until the debt is settled and makes it virtually impossible for the buyer to obtain a mortgage; a levy withdraws money from a taxpayer's assets - for example, from bank accounts, mutual fund accounts, insurance disbursements, lottery disbursements, or from wages or a salary - to satisfy the tax liability.)

The DOR has the authority to request that the agency or subdivision suspend, non-renew or revoke the license or certificate of any licensee who has failed to file a required return or pay taxes due and has not filed in good faith an application for abatement or petition contesting the tax before the Appellate Tax Board.

The Department of Revenue has the authority to suspend a driver’s license and automobile registration for non-payment of taxes.  Taxpayers may be sent a Notice of Intent to Suspend Driver’s License/Vehicle Registration for non-payment.  If the liability is not resolved within 30 days of the notice, the taxpayer’s license and registration will be marked by DOR at the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).  The RMV will suspend the license and registration 10 days after they are marked. 

In certain circumstances, the Department may let a taxpayer pay a liability through a short-term payment agreement that allows installment payments.  If a taxpayer is entitled to a refund either from another type of tax or from a different tax period, that refund may be applied to the overall undisputed liability.

In some cases, usually after all else fails, the Department will be forced to seize assets, such as cars or businesses, in order to satisfy the tax liability. Most taxpayers will receive a certified letter warning them that their property will be seized if a settlement is not reached within 10 days. Sometimes, DOR will not send a warning letter if there is a possibility that the taxpayer may hide or transfer an asset to avoid seizure.

Seizures are generally a matter of public record, and DOR routinely publicizes them.


What should I do when I receive a bill and do not understand what to do?
Taxpayer's should go to www.mass.gov/dor for information regarding your rights as a taxpayer, information regarding bills and notices, information of how to make a payment, etc. You may also call 617-887-MDOR for additional information. 


When is my account assigned to Collections? 
In general, a taxpayer's account will be transferred to the Collections Bureau and assigned to a tax collector if delinquent taxes are not paid or disputed after the due date on the demand for payment notice.


I received a "Final Notice before Legal Action." What does this mean?
When an account has been transferred to Collections, the collector to whom the account has been assigned will, in most cases, attempt to reach the taxpayer to discuss the status of the account. If the collector is unable to reach the taxpayer or if the taxpayer does not respond to this notice, the collector will use various collection methods to assure that delinquent taxes due the Commonwealth are paid. 


What is a tax lien?
The tax lien, which protects the Commonwealth’s interests,  attaches to all of the taxpayer's real and personal property and may prevent the sale or transfer of the property attached.  Because the notice is a public record, it is also available to credit reporting agencies and may damage the taxpayer's credit record.


How is a lien released?
A taxpayer that wants to obtain a release of a lien must pay the amount shown on the lien plus any additional interest and penalties accrued to the date of payment.  If the taxpayer wants an immediate release of the lien, payment must be made by bank check, personal money order, certified check or attorney's Client Fund check.


How can I avoid a lien?
A taxpayer may pay the liability in full or enter into a lien waiver agreement.


What is a Lien Waiver Agreement? 
A lien waiver agreement establishes a 12 months or less installment payment plan and requires limited documentation. Before a Lien Waiver Agreement will be considered, the taxpayer must file all outstanding returns. Taxpayers should also know that penalties and interest continue to accrue on the balance until the liability is paid in full.  Taxpayers with payment agreements must also file any additional returns and pay in full any additional taxes that may come due during the term of the payment agreement. The taxpayer will also be subject to refund intercepts and offsets.


I received a “Notice of Levy.” What does this mean?
This is a 60-day levy that allows DOR to take possession of the taxpayer's property or rights to property (i.e.: bank accounts.)  It remains in effect for 60 days from the date it is first served, until the liability is paid in full or released, whichever first occurs.


I received a “Notice of Levy on Wages, Salary and Other Income.”  What does this mean?
This levy allows the DOR to take a certain amount of a taxpayer's wages, salary or other income as payment of a tax liability. This levy remains in effect until the liability is paid in full or released.


What if I am unable to pay my liability in full?
Before a payment agreement will be considered, the taxpayer must file all outstanding returns. Taxpayers should also know that a payment agreement extends the statute of limitations for the term of the payment agreement.  In addition, penalties and interest continue to accrue on the balance until the liability is paid in full. Taxpayers with payment agreements must also file any additional returns and pay in full any additional taxes that may come due during the term of the payment agreement. The taxpayer will also be subject to refund intercepts and offsets.


What if I am unable to make any payments towards my liability?
If payment at this time would cause the taxpayer the inability to pay immediate and necessary life expenses, the taxpayer may apply for a hardship. Before a hardship will be considered, the taxpayer must file all outstanding returns.  In addition, penalties and interest continue to accrue on the balance until the liability is paid in full. Taxpayers in hardship must also file any additional returns and pay in full any additional taxes that may come due during the term of the hardship. Hardship status is temporary and reviewed annually. The taxpayer in this situation will be subject to a lien. The taxpayer will also be subject to refund intercepts and offsets.


How do I apply for a payment agreement or hardship?
Before a payment agreement or a hardship is approved there must be sufficient documentation justifying need.  The following are required:

  • A  Form M-433(I) pdf format of M-433(B) for individuals and/or Form M-433(B) pdf format of Form M-433(B) for businesses must be completed;
  • copies of last‑filed individual Federal income tax returns and business tax returns, if applicable (If the taxpayer is a business taxpayer, copies of individual federal income tax returns for any responsible person.);     
  • copies of paystubs      
  • the name and account number of all personal or business accounts with any bank or other financial institution and credit card accounts and copies of most recent account statements; and           
  • Corporate taxpayers must include a Certificate of Corporate Vote authorizing responsible persons to enter into the payment agreement.

Upon approval, a payment agreement or hardship will be recommended, based on the individual facts and circumstances. Unless a taxpayer establishes a lien waiver agreement, the taxpayer will be subject to a lien. The taxpayer will also be subject to refund intercepts and offsets.


Am I required to sign a payment agreement?
Once a payment agreement is approved by DOR, the taxpayer or duly authorized representative Form M-2848 pdf format of Form M-2848 will be required to sign Form PA-1, Payment Agreement.  Form PA-1 will specify the amount and due dates of installment payments.


What if I default my payment agreement?
If a taxpayer under a payment agreement misses a payment, he or she will receive a default notice. If the missed installment is not paid promptly, the payment agreement contract will be cancelled. The taxpayer must then pay the balance in full or be subject to levy and seizure. If the taxpayer fails to file current returns and pay current taxes as they become due, the taxpayer will receive a default notice and must immediately file required returns and pay any delinquent amounts to avoid cancellation of the payment agreement. 


I received a “Notice of Intent to Disclose Liability”. What does this mean?

A Notice of Intent to Disclose Liability may be sent to a taxpayer who owes twenty-five thousand dollars or more and has failed to make payment for a period not less than six months from the date the taxes were assessed. If the taxpayer fails to resolve the liability within 90 days of the notice, the name, city or town, and liability amount of the taxpayer shall be posted on the Department’s public website.


Can my professional license be suspended or subject to non-renewal?
Yes.  The DOR has the authority to request that the licensing agency or subdivision suspend, non-renew or revoke the license or certificate of any licensee who has failed to file a required return or pay taxes due and has not filed in good faith an application for abatement or petition contesting the tax before the Appellate Tax Board.


Can my driver’s license and auto registrations be suspended?
Yes.  The Department of Revenue has the authority to request suspension of a driver’s license and automobile registration for non-payment of taxes.  Taxpayers may be sent a Notice of Intent to Suspend Driver’s License/Vehicle Registration for non-payment.  If the liability is not resolved within 30 days of the notice, the taxpayer’s license and registration will be marked by DOR at the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).  The RMV will suspend the license and registration 10 days after they are marked. 


Can my account be assigned to a collection agency?
Yes.  The Department of Revenue is authorized to employ private collection agencies for the collection of delinquent taxes.  The commissioner shall not assign the account of any taxpayer to a private collection agency until such taxpayer has been notified.  A collection agency employed by the DOR does not have lien or levy powers but will use the same collection techniques used in the regular course of its business.


What if I dispute my tax assessment?
A taxpayer who disagrees with an assessment may file an application for abatement online with the DOR. In general enforcement action will not take place on disputed amounts.


Will the DOR settle my tax liability?
Yes. The Commissioner of Revenue is authorized to accept payment of less than a taxpayer's full tax liability in full and final settlement of that liability. If there is serious doubt as to the collectability of the total tax, the taxpayer can file an offer through the Collections Bureau/Offer in Final Settlement Unit. The taxpayer’s account will remain in Collections and subject to enforcement  actions until the offer is accepted for review by the Offer in Final Settlement Unit . If a taxpayer is seeking a settlement where a question of liability is at issue, then an appeal Form DR-1 pdf format of Form DR-1 would need to be completed and submitted to Department of Revenue/Office of Appeals. 


What forms of payment are acceptable?
Payments can be made by check, money order, or electronically on our website.  Credit card payments can also be made through your assigned collector or by calling the telephone number listed on your bill.


When should I contact the Problem Resolution Office or Office of the Taxpayer Advocate?

The Problem Resolution Office (PRO) was established specifically to help taxpayers whose problems have not been resolved in a reasonable amount of time; staff can research your problem and make sure that it is solved as quickly as possible. Once you contact PRO and your case is accepted, a PRO staff person will be assigned to assist you with all aspects of your case until your problem is resolved. PRO is not the appropriate venue to dispute the validity of an assessment.

If you need special help resolving a problem, please call PRO at 617-626-3833 or write to the office at PO Box 9552, Boston, MA 02114-9552. Correspondence may be faxed to PRO at 617-626-3799.

You also can seek resolution to an ongoing problem by contacting the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate. This office was created to ensure that taxpayer concerns are addressed fairly and expeditiously at the executive level. The Taxpayer Advocate is DOR's ombudsman, and acts as an independent voice in reviewing protracted individual cases. The Advocate works to ensure that taxpayers are afforded their rights in all communications with the Department.