Oral advice from the Department is offered as a public service and does not replace or supersede the Commonwealth's General Laws on taxation or DOR's official statements on policy; taxpayers who have complicated questions, for example, on issues driven by their own particular facts and circumstances, should seek out DOR's written position on the matter or request further written advice from the Department. Please see "My tax situation is very complicated. How can I get guidance on my responsibilities from the Department?" for more information.
Where can I get help in figuring out my income tax situation?
The DOR website is a valuable resource for taxpayers as it contains extensive information on Massachusetts taxes. In addition, the website has many online applications taxpayers, or their Power of Attorney, may use in their dealings with the Department, including filing returns, making tax payments, updating personal information with DOR, determining the status of a refund, applying for abatements, and more.
DOR's Customer Service Bureau (CSB) also can assist taxpayers with all aspects of complying with the Commonwealth's personal income tax laws, including determining which forms and schedules to use; answering technical tax questions; locating a refund that is overdue; explaining estimated tax requirements; and responding to inquiries about bills, notices and abatement requests.
Please see the end of this section for a complete list of other resources available to taxpayers who have particularly complicated tax issues.
Does DOR have the right to ask for my Social Security number?
Under the authority of 42 USC § 405(c)(2)(C)(i), and MGL c. 62C, § 5, the Department of Revenue has the right to require an individual to furnish his or her Social Security number on a state tax return. This information is mandatory. DOR uses Social Security numbers for taxpayer identification to assist in processing and keeping track of returns and in determining and collecting the proper amount of tax due. Under MGL c. 62C, § 40, the taxpayer's identifying number is required to process a refund of overpaid taxes. Although tax return information generally is confidential, pursuant to MGL c. 62C, § 21, DOR may disclose return information to other taxing authorities and those entities specified in MGL c. 62C, §§ 21, 22 or 23, and as otherwise authorized by law.
What if I need more time to file my individual income tax return or corporate tax return? Can I get an extension?
The Department of Revenue grants certain taxpayers who are in clear refund situation,s or are filing a return with no tax due, an automatic six-month extension of time to file a tax return without the need to file an extension application. For more detailed information, please see TIR 06-21, Revised Rules for Automatic Extension of Time to File Tax Returns for Certain Taxpayers.
Individual taxpayers who do not qualify for the automatic extension must file Form M-4868 and have paid at least 80 percent of their total tax liability for the year by April 15 for the extension to be valid. This is not an extension to pay, and any additional tax you expect to owe should be paid with Form M-4868.
Form M-4868 may be filed electronically via WebFile for Income. Note: You must file an extension request electronically if you owe no tax or if a payment of $5,000 or more accompanies the extension request. Payments must be made through Electronic Funds Withdrawal. A penalty of $100 will be imposed if a payment of $5,000 with the extension is not filed and paid electronically.
Fiduciaries, partnerships, clubs and other unincorporated organizations can request an automatic six-month extension via Form M-8736. Form M-8736 must be filed by the filing deadline and at least 80 percent of the total tax due must be paid by fiduciaries, clubs and other unincorporated organizations for the extension to be valid. You may file online via WebFile for Income. Please note that if you electronically file Form M-8736 and owe money, you must pay by Electronic Funds Withdrawal.
To request a filing extension for a corporation, you must file Form 355-7004 by the corporation's filing deadline. Any estimated payment and any payment due submitted with Form 355-7004 must equal at least 50 percent of the corporation's tax liability for the year for the extension to be valid.
All corporations with gross receipts, sales or income from all sources of $100,000 or more must file extensions and make any accompanying payment electronically. Any corporation making a payment of $5,000 or more with its extension request must file the extension and make the payment electronically. Electronic corporate extension requests and payments may be made online via WebFile for Business.
Taxpayers should know, however, that by law interest will accrue on any tax liability that is not paid by the original deadline.
I received income from which no state taxes were withheld. Do I need to pay estimated taxes?
Generally, estimated taxes are due if a taxpayer receives enough taxable income - from which there is no withholding - to result in an annual tax liability of more than $400. To avoid penalty charges, taxes on this income must be paid in quarterly installments using Estimated Income Tax Vouchers for individuals (Form 1-ES) or Estimated Income Tax Vouchers for fiduciaries and other unincorporated organizations (Form 2-ES). Estimated income tax payments may be made electronically via WebFile for Income.
The Department also has an easy-to-follow guide on estimated taxes called Should You Be Paying Individual Estimated Taxes?
Taxpayers may check their quarterly payment history online or, or by calling DOR's main information lines at 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts at 800-392-6089.
How can I find out what items are subject to the Massachusetts sales/use tax?
DOR's online publication, A Guide to Sales and Use Tax, answers the questions most taxpayers and vendors have about the sales/use tax. The guide includes a list of taxable and nontaxable items.
I'm buying a car (or a boat). What state taxes will I have to pay?
Any car or boat bought in Massachusetts - even if it is not going to be registered here - is subject to the Massachusetts sales tax. Any car or boat bought out-of-state for use in Massachusetts is subject to the use tax.
The sales tax on cars must be paid by the buyer within 10 days of purchase, transfer or first use, if the car is to be registered or titled in Massachusetts, or on or before the twentieth day of the month following the month of purchase, transfer or first use, if the car is not required to be registered or titled in Massachusetts.
The sales tax on boats purchased from a Massachusetts dealer is collected by the dealer at the time of sale. For casual sales, the sales tax is due prior to registration or by the twentieth day of the following month, whichever occurs earlier. The sales tax on boats must be filed and paid electronically via DOR's online ST-6 application.
If the sales/use tax is not paid when due, interest and penalty charges will be added.
DOR staff can answer questions regarding motor vehicle or boat sales and use taxes. Please call 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts 800-392-6089.
What are my tax responsibilities if I buy something in another state?
If you buy taxable items outside Massachusetts that are to be used, consumed or stored here, on which you paid no sales tax or a sales tax less than the Massachusetts sales tax, you must pay a use tax directly to the Commonwealth. The use tax is levied at the same rate as the sales tax. (If you have proof that a sales tax was paid to the other state, you generally are entitled to a credit on the Massachusetts use tax.) For your convenience, you may report and pay any Massachusetts use tax due on your personal income tax return, via WebFile for Income, Massachusetts Resident Tax Return (Form 1), or Form 1-NR/PY for part-year residents.
DOR's online publication, A Guide to Sales and Use Tax, explains your responsibilities for paying use tax on out-of-state purchases.
Who can answer my questions about Massachusetts estate tax?
DOR's Estate Tax Unit provides assistance to family members, executors and administrators in meeting estate tax obligations. Estate tax staff can answer questions on estate tax filing issues. The Estate Tax Unit can be reached at 617-887-6930.
In 2002, the Massachusetts Legislature changed the estate tax to "decouple" it from the federal estate tax. For dates of death occurring on or after January 1, 2003, the Massachusetts estate tax, also known as the "sponge tax," is computed using the Internal Revenue Code in effect on December 31, 2000. As a result of these changes, the threshold amounts for filing Massachusetts and federal estate tax returns are different for the estates of decedents dying on or after January 1, 2003. Under the new law, Massachusetts estate tax returns are required when the gross estate plus adjusted taxable gifts, computed using the Internal Revenue Code in effect on December 31, 2000, exceeds $700,000 for deaths in 2003; $850,000 for deaths in 2004; $950,000 for deaths in 2005; and $1,000,000 for deaths in 2006 and thereafter.
The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 changed the federal estate tax but has no impact on the Massachusetts estate tax. Beginning in 2003, some estates will file a Massachusetts estate tax return but no federal estate tax return, and some estates will pay a Massachusetts estate tax but no federal estate tax.
DOR publishes A Guide to Estate Taxes, (applicable to dates of death on or after January 1, 2003), which is available on the DOR website, or by calling the Estate Tax Unit. Taxpayers needing information on prior dates of death should see the 2002 A Guide to Estate Taxes (applicable to dates of death occurring on or after January 1, 1997 and prior to January 1, 2003) or the 1996 A Guide to Estate Taxes (applicable to dates of death prior to January 1, 1997).
I'm ready to start a new business. How do I find out what state taxes I will be responsible for?
DOR registers new employers and vendors to collect the necessary business or "trustee" taxes such as sales/use, meals, room occupancy and withholding. Employers and vendors must register their businesses through DOR's WebFile for Business application.
DOR also offers Small Business Workshops designed to help all new or small businesses understand their filing requirements. To find out more about these workshops, visit the DOR website or call DOR at 617-887-5660.
If you are starting a new corporation, you can obtain information from the Secretary of State's office at 617-727-2850. To receive forms from the Secretary of State, call 617-727-9440.
Can DOR help me with my corporation excise returns?
Yes. DOR has staff who can explain which forms corporations should file as well as answer any questions about bills and/or payment requirements. Please call 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts 800-392-6089.
I need a Certificate of Good Standing to sell my business. How do I get one?
DOR's Certificate Unit issues Certificates of Good Standing to corporations that need to establish that they are in good standing with the Commonwealth in regard to withholding, sales/use, meals and room occupancy taxes as well as the corporation excise. These certificates must be requested online through DOR's Certificate of Good Standing application, or in writing from the Certificate Unit at PO Box 7066, Boston, MA 02204. For information, call 617-887-6550.
I think my organization is tax-exempt. How do I find out for sure?
Call the IRS toll-free at 877-829-5500 to verify that your organization is tax-exempt.
DOR's Exempt Organizations Unit answers questions about both tax-exempt and nonprofit organizations. This unit also issues the Sales Tax Exemption Certificate (Form ST-2), and determines corporate excise exemptions. Staff members can explain all the necessary filing requirements for your organization. They can be reached at 617-887-MDOR or 800-392-6089.
My tax situation is very complicated. How can I get guidance on my responsibilities from the Department?
DOR administers the laws governing all types of state taxes strictly according to the Massachusetts General Laws.
DOR's Rulings and Regulations Bureau issues public written statements that explain the Commonwealth's tax laws in detail. These documents are useful tools for taxpayers and tax practitioners who want to know DOR's official stand on an issue.
Unlike oral advice from the Department, which is advisory only, DOR's public written statements listed below are official statements of DOR policy. Many complicated questions commonly raised by taxpayers are answered in one of the following DOR public written statements:
Regulations are DOR's official interpretations of Massachusetts tax statutes. DOR issues regulations after public hearings in order to communicate clearly to taxpayers and their representatives the Department's position on a particular issue or specific provisions of the law. Industry groups, tax professionals and private individuals are encouraged to take part in the regulatory process.
Technical Information Releases (TIRs) explain changes in federal or Massachusetts tax laws. TIRs also communicate DOR's response to those law changes or to court decisions affecting federal or state tax laws or administration.
DOR Directives are concise statements of position, designed to clarify specific issues that are not covered in any regulation or other public written statement.
Letter Rulings are responses to very specific technical questions, formally asked by taxpayers, that are not already covered in public written statements. To obtain guidance on submitting a request for a letter ruling, please call the Rulings and Regulations Bureau at 617-626-3250. (Because a ruling is based on one taxpayer's specific facts and circumstances, DOR's response is binding only with respect to the taxpayer making the request, although others may consider rulings as nonbinding indications of the Department's position at the time the rulings are issued.)
To obtain a copy of any Regulation, TIR, Directive or Letter Ruling, visit DOR's Legal Library, or call the Rulings and Regulations Bureau at 617-626-3250.
All DOR public written statements are published in the MASSTAX Guide. The Department's MASSTAX Guide, produced in conjunction with Thomson West, is an excellent source for researching any state tax issue. The MASSTAX Guide, which is printed in five volumes, is updated quarterly and contains DOR policy statements as well as other legal developments and law changes. Along with the volumes devoted to specific taxes, such as personal income, sales/use, etc., the MASSTAX Guide has an administrative volume that describes in more detail the enforcement and appeals procedures that are outlined in this guide.
The MASSTAX Guide is available at the State House Library in Boston as well as at libraries throughout the Commonwealth. Sets of the MASSTAX Guide may be purchased through Thomson West by calling 800-328-9352.