Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions regarding the Massachusetts Department of Revenue's (DOR) Collections process.
This guide is not designed to address all questions which may arise nor to address complex issues in detail. Nothing contained herein supersedes, alters or otherwise changes any provision of the Massachusetts General Laws, Massachusetts Department of Revenue Regulations, Department rulings or any other sources of the law.
Guide updated: November 10, 2020.
Guide Frequently Asked Questions Regarding DOR Collections
Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions regarding the Massachusetts Department of Revenue's (DOR) Collections process.
Table of Contents
What should I do when I receive a bill and do not understand what to do?
Taxpayer’s should go to MassTaxConnect (MTC), where you can register to manage your account online.
You will be able to see:
- Information regarding your rights as a taxpayer
- Information regarding bills and notices
- Information of how to make a payment, and more.
You may also call 617-887-6400 for additional information.
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 (NOA).
A NOA states:
- Date of the assessment
- Amount of tax assessed
- Any accrued penalties, as well as 30 days of interest.
If the amount stated on the NOA is not paid, a Statement of Account will be issued.
If the assessment is not appealed and no payment is mailed within 10 days, any one of the following actions may occur:
- Account may be subject to automated collection efforts, such as a bank account levy or a wage levy.
- Account may be referred to DOR's Collections Bureau.
- Account may be referred to an outside collection agency.
The Department can take the following enforcement actions to collect delinquent tax liabilities:
- A bank levy
- A wage levy
- A lien, or referral to our Collections Bureau
- Offset refunds
- Intercepting of State and/or Federal Refunds and other Government payments
- Intercepting of Insurance proceeds, Lottery and Casino winnings and other intercepts through the Comptroller’s Office
- Suspension/Revocation of Driver’s License and/or vehicle registrations
- Suspension/Revocation/Non-Renewal of Professional License or Certificate
- Addition to the Public Disclosure List of Delinquent Taxpayers
- Seizure of business and other assets
- Referral to an outside collection agency
I received a "Final Notice" or a "Notice of Collection." 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 the notice, the collector will use various collection methods to assure that delinquent taxes due the Commonwealth are paid.
What is a tax lien?
A tax lien is a legal claim by a government organization against an individual or business which owes taxes.
A tax lien:
- Protects the Commonwealth’s interests
- Attaches to all of your real and personal property
- May prevent the sale or transfer of the property attached
Because the notice is a public record, it could negatively affect the taxpayer’s credit, making it difficult to obtain credit.
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 which gained to the date of payment.
If the taxpayer wants an immediate release of the lien, payment must be made by either:
- Bank check
- Personal money order
- Certified check
- Attorney's Client Fund check
- Credit card
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.
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 gain on the balance until the liability is paid in full.
Taxpayers with Lien Waiver Agreements must also:
- File any additional returns
- Pay in full any additional taxes that may come due during the term of the Lien Waiver Agreement.
The taxpayer will also be subject to refund intercepts and offsets.
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. A Payment Agreement extends the statute of limitations for the term of the Payment Agreement.
Penalties and interest continue to gain 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.
Depending on the balance and the term of the Payment Agreement, the taxpayer may also be subject to a lien. The taxpayer will also be subject to refund intercepts and offsets.
What if I am unable to make any payments towards my liability?
If you believe you are unable to make any payments at this time, you may consider applying for temporary hardship status. DOR will review your situation and decide whether a significant hardship exists. A significant hardship is defined as not being able to provide the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing and shelter.
If you are unemployed or are receiving certain government benefits, you may qualify for temporary hardship status. Call the Hardship Team at 617-887-6400 to tell us about your circumstances and discuss hardship eligibility.
You may request hardship status online at mass.gov/masstaxconnect (after logging in) or you may complete Form M-911: Taxpayer’s Application for Relief Due to Hardship.
What does it mean to be approved for hardship status?
Hardship status is temporary and is reviewed periodically. You will remain responsible for tax liabilities covered by Hardship Status and DOR may file tax liens against liabilities covered by Hardship Status. Please note: Open businesses are not eligible for hardship.
Hardship approval limits some administrative collection actions:
- Bank levy actions are on hold.
- Wage garnishments are on hold.
- Suspended MA State Driver’s License & Registration may be restored.
- Suspended MA State Professional Licenses may be restored.
- Taxpayers will be removed from the Public Disclosure list.
Hardship approval DOES NOT:
- Eliminate your tax liability
- Remove or stop the accrual of penalty & interest
- Remove or stop the issuance of state tax liens
- Stop refund offsets or any intercept programs.
Taxpayers in hardship status must:
- File any additional tax returns that become due and
- Pay any additional taxes that become due.
How do I apply for a Payment Agreement?
Before a Payment Agreement is approved there must be sufficient documentation justifying need. The following are required:
- A Form M-433(I) for individuals and/or Form M-433(B) for businesses or Schedule C filers must be completed.
- A copy of the last‑filed Federal tax return, and all schedules, if applicable (if the taxpayer is a business taxpayer, copies of individual federal income tax returns for any responsible person)
- Copies of the three most recent paystubs for the taxpayer and spouse (if applicable)
- 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 the three most recent account statements; and
- Documentation of housing expenses, including documentation of arrears if claiming to be behind in housing payments
- Proof that all missing tax returns have been filed
- Letter describing how the liability came to be owed and a written proposal for repayment
- Corporate taxpayers must include a Certificate of Corporate Vote authorizing responsible persons to enter into the payment agreement.
Upon review of the documentation submitted, a Payment Agreement will be recommended. Unless a taxpayer establishes a Lien Waiver Agreement, the taxpayer may be subject to a lien. The taxpayer will also be subject to refund intercepts and offsets.
For more information visit DOR payment agreement frequently asked questions.
How do I authorize my Payment Agreement?
Once a Payment Agreement is approved by DOR, the taxpayer or their duly authorized representative (Form M-2848) will be required to log on to MassTaxConnect (MTC) in order to activate the payment agreement.
What if I default my Payment Agreement?
If a taxpayer under a Payment Agreement fails to make timely payments or pay the agreed upon installment payment, in full, he or she will receive a default notice.
If the full installment payment is not paid promptly, the Payment Agreement 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
- Pay current taxes as they become due
the taxpayer will receive a default notice.
The taxpayer must:
- Immediately file required returns and
- Pay any delinquent amounts
to avoid cancellation of the Payment Agreement.
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 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.
I received a “Notice of Intent to Disclose Tax Liability”. What does this mean?
A Notice of Intent to Disclose Tax Liability may be sent to a taxpayer who:
- Owes twenty-five thousand dollars or more
- 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 Disclosure website.
Can my professional license be suspended or subject to non-renewal?
Yes. The Department of Revenue has the authority to request that the licensing agency or subdivision:
the license or certificate of any licensee who has:
- Failed to file a required return or pay taxes due
- 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. For non-payment of taxes the Department of Revenue has the authority to request suspension of a:
- Driver’s license
- Automobile registration
Taxpayers may be sent a Notice of Intent to Suspend Driver’s License/Vehicle Registration for non-payment.
If the liability is not resolved by either:
- Liability paid in full,
- Taxpayer enters into an approved Payment Agreement
- Taxpayer is approved for hardship
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?
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.
What forms of payment are acceptable?
Electronic and credit card payments can be made on our website utilizing MassTaxConnect. Credit card payments can also be made through your assigned collector or by calling the telephone number listed on your bill. Payments can also be made by check or money order.
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 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.