For Immediate Release - March 15, 2013

Patrick-Murray Administration and City of Newton Team Up to Launch Tax Break Campaign for Seniors

(Newton, MA) - Massachusetts Revenue Commissioner Amy Pitter and Secretary of Elder Affairs Ann L. Hartstein joined Newton city assessor Elizabeth Dromey in launching “Senior $ents”, an educational campaign to help the Commonwealth’s 1.2 million seniors lower their state income and local property tax bills and get up to a $1,000 in their pocket this filing season.

“Massachusetts has many tax breaks for our seniors,” said Commissioner Pitter. “The problem is many seniors don’t use the credits, deductions and exemptions because they either don’t know about them or mistakenly believe they don’t qualify because they don’t have to file a tax return. We want to help seniors claim what’s rightfully due them.”

“The Executive Office of Elder Affairs is delighted to partner with the Department of Revenue in promoting the Senior $ents Campaign.  Massachusetts offers seniors specific tax breaks and we want to be sure people have that information, understand it and take advantage of the options available to them,” said Secretary Ann L. Hartstein.

The “senior circuit breaker” is the primary focus of the campaign. It puts more refunds in the hands of anyone 65 years of age or older who rents or owns a home than any other state tax credit. Last tax year, 82,623 seniors claimed nearly $64 million from this credit, an average of $784 per taxpayer.  If the credit is larger than the tax bill, the excess amount will be refunded.  Eligible seniors can also determine if they were owed the credit in three prior tax years and file an abatement for the refund. This year’s senior circuit breaker is worth up to $1,000 so if a senior also qualifies for the prior three years, they could get up to nearly $4,000.

DOR lists eligibility requirements and filing deadlines for the circuit breaker in its website brochure Senior Tax Tips along with a number of other deductions and exemptions such as:

  • Senior Tax Exemption-a $700 exemption in addition to their personal exemption,
  • Capital Gains Exclusion on the sale of a principal residence,
  • List of income such as social security that is not taxable and
  • Medical and dental expenses.

Senior $ents also highlights property tax breaks offered by many municipalities across the state which vary from city to town.

One popular local initiative is the “Work-off” program in which senior taxpayers may be eligible to earn up to a $1,000 credit on their real estate tax bill by working for the municipality. Dromey said 50 seniors volunteered for the program in Newton last year to reduce their property tax bills by $46,000.

“Newton, like many municipalities, values the contributions our senior residents have made during their working lives,” said Dromey. “The tax assistance programs we have provide them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax relief and deferral.”

Other local tax assistance programs offered in Newton and many other municipalities may include:

  • Older citizen clause which offers eligible seniors up to a $1,000 exemption
  • Older citizen tax deferral which allows eligible seniors to delay payment of their property tax bill
  • Elderly or surviving spouse clause which allows an eligible senior or surviving spouse a $175 tax exemption.

Seniors can contact their local assessor office to learn if their community offers the “Work-off” program or other tax assistance programs. State exemptions and credits for seniors can be found at www.mass.gov/dor as well as directions for claiming the tax breaks.  DOR also offers workshops on the senior circuit breaker tax credit at a number of senior centers throughout the filing season. The workshop schedule can also be found on the DOR website.