Serving over four million taxpayers, the Massachusetts tax system is a complex network of dozens of different taxes and hundreds of millions of pieces of data, safeguarded by careful procedures to ensure its accuracy and integrity. It is also, fortunately, a system that you, the taxpayer, can turn to if you have a problem with your taxes.
Along with the general information and assistance readily available from the Department, taxpayers who have questions about their particular tax situations are encouraged to contact DOR for help.
If you have a general tax question, you can call DOR's main information lines for assistance. If, however, you are already dealing with a particular area of the Department, you should contact that office directly.
Whenever you have a question that requires us to look up your tax records, the Customer Service Bureau (CSB) or the bureau involved can respond more efficiently when you provide the following information:
- Taxpayer Identification Number
- for individuals, a Social Security number or tax identification number
- for businesses, a federal identification number;
- Tax return, letter or bill in question;
- Names and Social Security numbers of both individuals if a joint return is filed; and
- Copies of both sides of a canceled check(s) or money order(s) with correspondence if a bill is being questioned.
To protect a taxpayer's right to privacy, DOR employees legally are barred from discussing a tax return with anyone other than the taxpayer who filed the return or with the taxpayer's designated representative. Therefore, before any confidential tax information is released over the telephone, the CSB representative will ask questions to verify your identity. Also please remember to submit a Power of Attorney (Form M-2848) with any inquiry about your specific tax status if you expect the return to be discussed with a lawyer, accountant, family member or friend.
Where can I obtain copies of my previous tax returns?
Generally, DOR retains taxpayer returns for six years, and sometimes longer, if a taxpayer has an unpaid tax liability. Taxpayers who need to obtain copies of previous returns must file a Request for Copy of Tax Form (Form M-4506 ).
What if I get a bill that I don't understand?
All bills sent to you by DOR (e.g., a Notice of Assessment or a Demand for Payment) will indicate the type of tax involved, the period for which the tax was due and whether any penalties or interest are due. All bills should be read upon receipt as interest and, in some cases, penalties will accrue on unpaid taxes. In addition, collection proceedings may commence with regard to any undisputed taxes. (Please see the Collections section of this guide for more information.)
If you receive a bill that you don't understand, or if you feel that you were billed incorrectly, you should contact the person or DOR office indicated on the bill. If you have other questions, or if there is no contact number printed on the bill, please call the Customer Service Bureau (CSB). CSB can be reached at 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts at 800-392-6089.
My refund hasn't arrived. How can I check on its status?
To find out whether your return has been processed and/or when a refund check was issued, visit DOR's website at www.mass.gov/dor, or call DOR's Interactive Voice Response system at 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts at 800-392-6089.
I received a notice that my refund was intercepted. What does this mean?
Every year, DOR intercepts the refunds of thousands of people who have outstanding debts to specific agencies. This money then is applied to reduce that debt. Your refund may be intercepted if either you or your spouse owes money to DOR for a different tax period or different tax type; owes unpaid Division of Unemployment Assistance liabilities; owes unpaid Division of Medical Assistance liabilities; owes money to the Department of Transitional Assistance for overpayments of public assistance; owes money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); owes delinquent child support payments; defaults on a student loan; or owes liabilities to any other state agency, or to a city or town, or to an agency of a city, town or to a housing authority, if certified by the Office of the Comptroller. You will receive a notice that will include specific information on where to call with questions.
Nondebtor spouses may appeal to the individual agency to have their portion of a refund returned to them; however, delays may occur in receiving it.
There is no set-off debt collection unless both the debt and the refund, if any, are $50.
For more information, please see Administrative Procedure 606, Refund Intercepts .
What if I discover that I made a mistake on my taxes?
If you filed a paper return which contains an immediately obvious omission - such as a missing signature - DOR may have to send your return back to you so that you can complete it correctly before it is processed. In other cases - such as an error in adding or subtracting - DOR may be able to correct your return automatically, and you will receive either a notice of the change with your refund, or you will be billed for the balance due.
For situations that you are aware of - such as omitting a deduction or an item of income - you should file an Application for Abatement/Amended Return (Form CA-6 ), with supporting documentation, to request a refund or to make an additional payment. Taxpayers who filed a Massachusetts income tax return may file an abatement application via WebFile for Income, to request a refund, make an additional payment or apply for a penalty waiver.
Recent legislation changed the time period within which a taxpayer may request a refund by filing Form CA-6, or, if eligible, an online abatement application. The new law also changed the time period within which a taxpayer may request a refund on a late-filed return. These changes are explained in Part VIII of Technical Information Release 11-6, Tax Changes Contained in the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget.
Effective Date of New Law. The new law applies to requests for refund or applications for abatement filed on or after July 1, 2011. However, the new law does not apply with respect to tax periods where the time limitations for refund or abatement had already expired prior to July 1, 2011.
Application for Abatement to Adjust Tax. Under the new law, a person aggrieved by the assessment of a tax may apply on Form CA-6 for an abatement thereof at any time
- within three years from the date of filing the return (or the prescribed due date if the return is filed early),
- within two years from the date the tax was assessed or deemed to be assessed, or
- within one year from the date that the tax was paid, whichever is later.
Where a return is filed either on or before the prescribed due date (determined without regard to any extension of time to file), an application for abatement may be filed within three years from such due date for the return. Where a return is timely filed on extension, an application for abatement may be filed within three years from the actual date of filing the return. Also, where a return is not timely filed, an application for abatement may be filed within three years from the date of filing the delinquent return.
Requesting a Refund on a Late-Filed Return. Under the new law, an application for a refund where a return which is required to be filed has not been timely filed, must be made and filed, along with the overdue return,
- within three years from the due date of the return, taking into account any extension of time for filing the return, or
- within two years of the date that the tax was paid, whichever is later.
If you believe that you have underpaid your taxes, you should file Form CA-6, or, if eligible, an online abatement application with DOR as soon as possible since interest or penalties that you owe for the late payment will continue to accrue until the payment is made.
If you wish to dispute a tax or penalty for which you were billed, you must file an Application for Abatement/Amended Return (Form CA-6), or, if eligible, an online abatement application. (For more information, please see Appealing a State Tax Bill.)
If you are contacted by the IRS about a federal change in your income taxes due for a particular year, you must inform DOR of the final change within one year by submitting a Form CA-6, or, if eligible, an online abatement application. You also must pay any additional amount due to avoid applicable penalty charges as well as additional interest charges.
Employers and vendors with a combined tax liability of $5,000 or more filing a withholding, sales/use tax (including sales tax on meals) and/or room occupancy excise return, must file any amended return or abatement application electronically through WebFile for Business. Amendments and abatement requests for tax on telecommunications services must be filed on a paper Form CA-6. However, if the return was a zero tax due return filed by touch-tone telephone, you may file a paper Form CA-6. For more information, please see TIR 10-18, Electronic Filing Thresholds Modified; and TIR 04-30, Revised Electronic Filing Requirements.
You should call DOR's main assistance numbers for more information on how to correct any mistakes on your tax return as well as to get the proper forms for making these corrections. To determine the appropriate documentation to include with Form CA-6, please see the Guide to Personal Income Tax.
What if I or my company has filed for bankruptcy?
DOR's Bankruptcy Unit can answer questions concerning how your bankruptcy filing affects payment of state taxes. For more information, call 617-626-3875, or write to the Litigation Bureau/Bankruptcy Unit, PO Box 9564, Boston, MA 02114-9564.
I need help resolving an ongoing problem with DOR. Is there someone who can help me?
Most issues can be handled by the Customer Service Bureau via phone or e-mail; however, if you have a problem that began before the current tax year and has not been settled after at least two contacts with the Department, call or write DOR's Problem Resolution Office (PRO). (More recent problems should be handled either through the bureau involved or through CSB.)
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.
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.
To contact the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, please call 617-626-2280, or write to the office at PO Box 9550, Boston, MA 02114-9550.
Where can I call if I think someone is not paying his or her taxes?
If you think someone is not paying his or her taxes, or have reason to believe that a business may not be collecting the appropriate tax, you should contact DOR's Criminal Investigations Unit at 617-887-6780. All information is kept completely confidential.
What if I want to complain about a DOR employee's conduct?
If you feel that an employee was rude or unprofessional, you should ask to speak to a supervisor about the incident. You also can contact the Commissioner's Office directly at 617-626-2201 to lodge a complaint.
If you feel that an employee may have behaved in an unethical or illegal manner, you should contact DOR's Inspectional Services Division (ISD) immediately. ISD is responsible for ensuring the highest standards of integrity throughout the Department and conducts investigations of employees who are suspected of wrongdoing. To report allegations of suspected misconduct or impropriety involving DOR employees, please call ISD's Integrity Hotline at 800-568-0085 or write to PO Box 9568, Boston, MA 02114-9568.