April 9, 2003
Joan Grourke
(617) 626-2353

As the town meeting season approaches, municipalities across the Commonwealth will have the option to consider an unprecedented local tax amnesty.

This program, believed to be the first offered in Massachusetts, provides for a waiver of any percentage up to 100 percent of the interest, collection costs and penalties owed on delinquent property taxes and excises. The underlying tax or excise, however, may not be waived.

"This is a decision that each city and town must make on its own," Revenue Commissioner Alan LeBovidge said. "Because the municipalities have liens against the properties, they will eventually realize some revenue from the sale of the properties, but in these challenging fiscal times, the amnesty program is a way to accelerate payments."

The taxpayer must pay the tax or excise within the amnesty period established, according to the law passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Mitt Romney last month. Cities and towns have the latitude to determine the length of the amnesty period, with the stipulation that it must end no later than December 31, 2003.

In communities with town governments, the amnesty program must be enacted by town meeting. In cities, a local tax amnesty program is established by the city council with the mayor's approval.

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services has issued guidelines that provide local officials with further information on the implementation of this program. The guidelines can be found online at www.mass.gov/dls.