Guide Guide to the Department of Revenue: Your Taxpayer Bill of Rights

The purpose of this publication is to provide taxpayers with general information about Massachusetts tax laws and Department of Revenue (DOR) policies and procedures. It 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. This guide is published annually in accordance with Section 6 of Chapter 14 of the Massachusetts General Laws.

Introduction

Paying tax shouldn’t be an overly confusing or intimidating experience. Understanding how the system works is every taxpayer's right.

You should know your rights. The Department of Revenue (DOR or Department) believes that most people want to pay what they owe on time and in full. An important part of our job is to explain your responsibilities as taxpayers as clearly as possible.

We want you to know how the system works if you have a problem with your taxes or disagree with how much we say you owe in taxes. If you are well-informed, you can get faster results by knowing your options and exercising them quickly.

You also may need to know what will happen if you don’t pay any undisputed taxes that you owe. State law provides for an escalating series of sanctions - from interest and penalty charges to court actions - designed to ensure that everyone pays your fair share of taxes. These enforcement tools, carefully used, encourage voluntary compliance while assuring honest taxpayers that they aren’t shouldering an unfair burden.

Your rights as taxpayers

  • DOR must be objective, impartial, professional and ethical in its administration of the tax laws; any information that you as a taxpayer provide to DOR will be handled with the utmost confidentiality and professionalism.
  • DOR must maintain a Problem Resolution Office and an Office of Internal Affairs to safeguard taxpayers' rights.
  • DOR may not establish or enforce individual collection goals or collection quotas for its employees.
  • If you're unable to satisfy a tax liability in full, the Commissioner of Revenue may enter into a payment agreement if the Commissioner determines it'll facilitate the collection of the tax.
  • You may obtain representation at any point in your dealings with DOR.
  • You generally are entitled to appeal a DOR decision regarding your tax liability. DOR is obligated to make abatement decisions as promptly as possible and to issue any refunds resulting from abatement decisions within 30 days of such decisions.
  • You won't be subject to statutory penalties if you make a mistake because you relied on erroneous written advice from DOR representatives acting in their official capacities.

Additional Resources for Your rights as taxpayers

Getting information

DOR must be objective, impartial, professional and ethical in its administration of the tax laws; any information that you as a taxpayer provide to the Department will be handled with the utmost confidentiality and professionalism.

DOR offers a wide range of free services to taxpayers - both individuals and businesses. Most taxpayers can now use MassTaxConnect to instantly access their accounts and perform many other functions online and at any time. Many questions can be answered easily online or over the phone. Forms and general information can be accessed through mass.gov 24 hours a day, seven days a week; and telephone assistance is available to taxpayers Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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, on issues driven by their own particular facts and circumstances, should seek out DOR's written position on the matter. DOR has addressed many legal issues in its public written guidance. All of this information is available online on our website.  Taxpayers may also request further written advice from DOR. 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?

Most taxpayers, and their Power of Attorney if given permission, can use MassTaxConnect to instantly access account information and perform many functions online and at any time. MassTaxConnect is often the fastest and best way to perform many tasks, like making payments, updating personal information, determining the status of a refund, disputing an assessment, and more. The mass.gov website is also a valuable resource for taxpayers as it contains extensive information on Massachusetts taxes. In addition, the website has many online forms and applications taxpayers may use in their dealings with the Department.

DOR's Contact Center Bureau 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?

DOR has the right to require an individual to furnish his or her Social Security number on a state tax return under the authority of 42 USC § 405(c)(2)(C)(i) and MGL c. 62C, § 5. 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. The taxpayer's identifying number is required to process a refund of overpaid taxes under MGL c. 62C, § 40. Although tax return information generally is confidential, 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?

Generally, personal income tax returns are due to be filed on or before April 15 each year, and estate tax returns are due to be filed nine months after the date of the decedent’s death but taxpayers are automatically granted a six-month extension to file if certain payment requirements are met. The full amount of tax due must be paid on the due date to avoid late pay penalties and interest. Many taxpayers will have already paid most if not all of their tax due through withholding and/or estimated payments, but a payment may also be made on the due date through MassTaxConnect or by using an extension voucher form.

All personal income taxpayers and filers of estate tax returns are automatically granted a six-month extension of time to file their tax returns as long as they have paid at least 80 percent of the total amount of tax ultimately due on or before the date prescribed for payment of the tax. For personal income taxpayers the due date for payment of the tax is on or before April 15 each year. For estate tax, the payment due date is nine months after the date of the decedent’s death, unless DOR has affirmatively granted a later date. The automatic extension will be considered void, if 80 percent of the total tax liability is not paid on or before the original due date of the return, and interest and penalties for late filing and late payment will apply from the original due date of the return. MGL c. 62C, § 33.

The six-month extension will run from the original due date for filing the return, as specified under MGL c. 62C. This extension only stops the accrual of penalties, not interest. This extension does not extend the due date for payment of any tax due. Interest will accrue from the original due date for filing a return on all amounts not paid by the due date, and on any amount assessed as a penalty. MGL c. 62C, § 40.


Please note: For estate taxes a taxpayer may request an extension of time to pay the tax by filing a Form M-4678.  A request may be granted for reasonable cause. Form M-4678 is available on MassTaxConnect or may be requested from the Estate Tax Unit (617) 887-6930.

Personal income taxpayers and filers of estate tax returns needing an extension of time beyond the automatic six-month extension should contact DOR’s Contact Center Bureau for assistance. For more detailed information, please see TIR 16-10, Simplified Extension Process for Individuals, Fiduciaries, Partnerships, and Estates.

All corporate excise taxpayers are also granted an extension of time to file their tax returns as long as certain payment requirements are met by or before the original due date of the return. Generally, to meet these payment requirements, corporate excise taxpayers must have paid the greater of (1) 50 percent of the total amount of tax ultimately due or (2) the minimum corporate excise by the original due date for filing the return. Consistent with current rules, taxpayers meeting these payment requirements are given a seven-month extension in the case of corporate excise taxpayers filing combined reports and a six-month extension in the case of other corporate excise taxpayers (with the exception of taxpayers filing unrelated business income tax returns, who will be given an eight-month extension), please see TIR 15-15, New Streamlined Extensions Process For Corporate Excise Taxpayers.

Electronic corporate extension payments may be made online via MassTaxConnect. See TIR 16-9, Expansion and Restatement of Electronic Filing and Payment Requirements, for more information about electronic filing.

Corporate taxpayers should know, however, that all taxes are still due on the original due date and 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. For instance, a taxpayer may receive income from freelance work or occasional rental income. 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 MassTaxConnect.

The Department also has an easy-to-follow resource, Estimated tax payments for personal income taxpayers.

Taxpayers may check their quarterly payment history at any time online by using MassTaxConnect or by calling DOR's main information lines at 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts at 800-392-6089 – 8:30 am - 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

 

How can I find out what items are subject to the Massachusetts sales/use tax?

DOR's Sales and Use Tax Guide, 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 motor vehicle, boat or recreational vehicle. What state taxes will I have to pay?

Any motor vehicle, boat or recreational vehicle bought in Massachusetts - even if it is not going to be registered here - is subject to the Massachusetts sales tax. Any motor vehicle, boat or recreational vehicle bought out-of-state for use in Massachusetts is subject to the use tax.

Motor vehicle sales or use tax is due by the 20th day of the month following the purchase, use, storage, or any other consumption within Massachusetts.  

If you purchase a motor vehicle, boat or recreational vehicle outside of Massachusetts and bring it into Massachusetts within 6 months for permanent use, a use tax is due by the 20th day of the following month when the vehicle entered Massachusetts.

For example, if you purchased a motor vehicle in New Hampshire on January 1st and brought it into Massachusetts on June 30, a use tax would be due by July 20th.

Keep in mind:

  • Generally, if you paid a sales tax of 6.25% or more to another state, you would not have to pay a use tax to Massachusetts. See TIR 03-1 for more information.
  • If you paid less than a 6.25% sales tax to another state and registered your vehicle or boat, you would owe the difference to Massachusetts if the vehicle was brought into Massachusetts for permanent use within 6 months.

The sales tax on motor vehicles, boats and recreational vehicles purchased from a Massachusetts dealer is usually collected by the dealer at the time of sale.

For casual sales, motor vehicle sales tax should be paid directly to the registry of motor vehicles.

For casual sales, boat and recreational vehicle sales tax is due prior to registration or by the twentieth day of the following month, whichever occurs earlier by completing an ST-6 electronically or by paper.

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, boat or recreational sales and use taxes. Please call 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts 800-392-6089 during normal business hours.

For more information visit:


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. This includes any online purchases where no sales tax is charged. 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, Massachusetts Resident Tax Return (Form 1), or Form 1-NR/PY for part-year residents.

DOR's Guide to Sales and Use Tax, explains your responsibilities for paying use tax on out-of-state purchases.

For more information visit:


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.

The Massachusetts estate tax was "decoupled" from the federal estate tax. As a result, 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 $1,000,000 for deaths in 2006 and thereafter. 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. Any changes to federal estate tax after December 31, 2000, have no impact on the Massachusetts estate tax, unless specifically adopted by the Massachusetts legislature.

For more information visit Estate Tax or call 617-887-6930.

 

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 MassTaxConnect online application.

DOR also offers Small Business Workshops designed to help all new or small businesses understand their filing requirements. 

If you are starting a new corporation, you can obtain information from the Secretary of the Commonwealth's Corporation Division.

Please note: Employers must report newly hired employees and independent contractors to us within 14 days of their first day of work. Find out how you can report your new hires to us. See Report New Hires.

For more information visit:

 

Can DOR help me with my corporation excise returns?

Yes. Most corporate filers can access their account information online on MassTaxConnect and perform many functions, including filing a return. In addition, there is a wealth of information on corporate excise tax on the mass.gov website, including current forms, schedules and instructions. Finally, DOR has staff who can explain which forms business corporations should file as well as answer any questions about bills and/or payment requirements. To speak with a DOR representative, please call 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts 800-392-6089 during normal business hours.

For more information visit:

 

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. The fastest way to request a certificate is online through DOR's Certificate of Good Standing application on MassTaxConnect.

 

I think my organization is tax-exempt. How do I find out for sure?

The IRS maintains an online database that allows users to search for and review the status of exempt organizations at irs.gov. You may also 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, all of which are available at DOR's online Legal Library, 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. 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.

DOR public written statements are also published in the MASSTAX 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.

 

Solving a problem

DOR must maintain a Problem Resolution Office and an Office of Internal Affairs to safeguard taxpayers' rights.

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 on the mass.gov website and other public forums, taxpayers who have questions about their particular tax situations are encouraged to access their accounts on MassTaxConnect and/or contact DOR for help.

If you have a general tax question, you can easily search the mass.gov website for information or 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 Contact Center Bureau 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 are legally barred from discussing a tax return or other taxpayer specific information with anyone other than the taxpayer who filed the return or with the taxpayer's designated power of attorney. Therefore, before any confidential tax information is released over the telephone, the DOR 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 or other tax-specific records?

If you are the taxpayer, or a person with a Power of Attorney (POA) for a taxpayer, then you may request taxpayer-specific records (for example, copies of tax returns, or an audit file) by emailing the request (and if you are not the taxpayer, then also a copy of the Power of Attorney) to the email address below.

If you are a U.S. government department or agency, then in some circumstances you may administratively subpoena quarterly wage records for a particular employer or employee.  

Email your request together with your POA or federal agency administrative subpoena to taxpayer-records@dor.state.ma.us.

Taxpayers who need to obtain copies of previous returns must also email a Form M-4506: Request for Copy of Tax Form.

Please keep in mind that DOR does not keep records past a certain time, and may not necessarily still have what you are asking for.

For POA information visit Power of Attorney (POA) and Paid Preparers.

 

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. Please read all bills as soon as you receive them because interest and, in some cases, penalties will accrue on unpaid taxes. In addition, the bill contains valuable information and time limitations for seeking further review. Finally, they will inform you about collection proceedings for any undisputed taxes. Please see the Collections section of this guide for more information. You can access electronic copies of all your DOR bills on your MassTaxConnect account at any time.

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 Contact Center Bureau at 617-887-MDOR or toll-free in Massachusetts at 800-392-6089.

Visit Learn about types of DOR bills and notices.

 

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 MassTaxConnect, 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 government agencies. This money then is applied to reduce that debt. First, before issuing your refund, an overpayment may be offset and applied to Massachusetts tax due if either you or your spouse owes money to DOR for a different tax period and/or different tax type. Second, your DOR refund may be intercepted for other liabilities as permitted by law. For example, if you or your spouse 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.

Generally, if you file a joint return, your entire overpayment may be used to offset the tax liabilities of either taxpayer. Also, your entire refund will be intercepted if either spouse owes money to the agencies identified above. However, nondebtor spouses may appeal to the individual agency to have their portion of a refund returned to them; but, 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, a necessary schedule or an item of income - you should file an Amended Return to update any omitted information or documentation, and/or to request a refund or to make an additional payment.

If you believe that you have underreported and/or underpaid your taxes, you should file an amended return and/or make an additional payment as soon as possible since interest or penalties will continue to accrue until the payment is made.

Many taxpayers can use the "amend" feature of their MassTaxConnect account to make changes to previously filed tax returns. If amending your return on MassTaxConnect is not an option and you are not required to file electronically, you can check the amended return box on your paper return and file it the way you usually do. You can still make an electronic payment even if you cannot file the return electronically.

 

What If I disagree with the amount DOR says I owe?

If you wish to dispute a tax or penalty assessed by DOR for which you were billed, you must file an application for abatement, either online through the dispute function on MassTaxConnect or by filing Form ABT. Most taxpayers can use MassTaxConnect to dispute an audit finding or a penalty by choosing "File a Dispute" under "I Want To" in their account for each tax type even if they did not file the original return electronically.

Keep in mind that some taxpayers are required to file applications for abatement electronically. Refer to TIR 16-9, Expansion and Restatement of Electronic Filing and Payment Requirements, to see if the electronic filing and payment requirements apply to you.

 

Are there time limits for filing an amended return or an application for abatement?

There are very strict time limits for filing an amended return to reduce the tax you originally reported and/or for filing an application for abatement to dispute a DOR assessment. There are also time limits for the Department to make assessments. These time limits are based on the law and allow for some finality for everyone.

You may file an application for abatement or an amended return to reduce your taxes 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.

When thinking about what the date of filing is, please keep the following in mind. Where a return is filed either on or before the original return due date (i.e., April 15th for most individual taxpayers), an application for abatement or an amended return may be filed within three years from such due date. However, where a return is filed after the due date (e.g., timely filed on extension or filed late), an application for abatement or an amended return may be filed within three years from the actual date of filing the return. The date of filing is the date that the taxpayer files a valid return, any subsequent amendments, correction or supplement thereof does not alter the date of filing.

A taxpayer seeking to amend a return related to a federal or state change should also refer to the time limitation contained in MGL c. 62C, § 30(federal change) or 30A(state change) and the section below “What if the IRS makes a change to my federal tax return?”

Finally, keep in mind that any credit and/or refund sought is also subject to the time limits for seeking a refund, which may be different from those articulated above. See, MGL c. 62C, § 36 and the section below “Will I still get my refund if I file my return late?”

 

Will I still get my refund if I file my return late?    

A claim for a refund or credit of an overpayment where a return which is required to be filed has not been timely filed, must be made by filing the overdue return showing a refund due:

  • 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.

A request for a refund or credit of an overpayment of any tax where no return is required must be made within two years from the time the tax was paid. A request for a refund or credit of an overpayment of tax where the required return was timely filed must generally be made within the period permitted for abatement reference in the section above “Are there time limits for filing an amended return or an application for abatement?” Please note that even if the amended return and/or application for abatement is timely filed, no refund or credit of an overpayment will be granted if the claim is not made within the time limitations in MGL c. 62C, § 36.

 

What if the IRS makes a change to my federal tax return?

If you are contacted by the IRS about a federal change in your income taxes due for a prior year that impacts your Massachusetts taxes or credits, you as an individual taxpayer must inform DOR of the final change within one year by submitting an amended return. Corporate taxpayers must report the change in three months. You must indicate on the return that it relates to a federal change and/or federal audit and submit related documentation. You also must pay any additional amount due to avoid applicable penalty charges as well as additional interest charges. Finally, if the change reduces your Massachusetts taxes, you may be able to claim a refund related to a federal change by reporting the federal change and showing a refund due on your amended return within the applicable time limits.

 

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 Collections Bureau/Bankruptcy Unit, PO Box 9564, Boston, MA 02114-9564.

Learn about the different types of bankruptcy filings by visiting DOR's Bankruptcy page.

 

I need help resolving an ongoing problem with DOR. Is there someone who can help me?

Most issues can be handled by the Contact Center 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 the Contact Center.

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 and/or reporting the appropriate tax, you should contact DOR's Fraud 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 a DOR 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 immediately. To report allegations of suspected misconduct or impropriety involving DOR employees, please call DOR's Integrity Hotline at 800-568-0085 or write to PO Box 9568, Boston, MA 02114-9568.

Filing an appeal with DOR

Do you want to contest a DOR assessment or decision? You have taxpayer appeal rights. You have the right to:

  • Dispute DOR’s determination on a tax and/or penalty issue
  • Dispute DOR’s factual finding
  • Request settlement consideration.

You won’t be subject to statutory penalties if you made a mistake because you relied on erroneous written advice from DOR representatives acting in their official capacities.

As a taxpayer, it is important that you understand how to appeal or otherwise resolve a finding and what the best route may be to do so.

You may want to consult a tax practitioner for advice and you may obtain representation at any point in your dealings with DOR. Please ensure that you provide DOR with a valid power of attorney before having someone else represent you. Otherwise, DOR is not permitted to discuss your case with your representative and any action your representative takes on your behalf may not be valid.

Remember that filing an appeal doesn’t stop interest or late-pay penalty charges from accruing on any unpaid tax liability. However, filing an appeal will stay the accrual of late-pay penalties on any unpaid contested amounts resulting from an audit assessment.

Involuntary collection activities on contested amounts will be suspended for all taxpayers whether audited or not, while an abatement is pending with DOR or upon subsequent appeal to the Appellate Tax Board or Probate Court.

The Office of Appeals has the authority to settle and/or resolve tax controversies as to liability prior to assessment or denial of an application for abatement.


How to Appeal a State Tax Bill

If you have received a Notice of Intent to Assess or a Notice of Assessment you have the right to appeal DOR’s decision. To dispute DOR’s intent to assess you may either use the dispute function on MassTaxConnect or follow the instructions on the Notice of Intent to Assess. Please make sure you select the pre-assessment dispute option. To dispute DOR’s assessment you may either use the dispute function on MassTaxConnect or file a Form ABT. For more information please see above “What If I disagree with the amount DOR says I owe after I’ve been audited?”  When you submit your dispute, you will have various appeal options, including requesting a conference (pre-assessment) or a hearing (post-assessment), and settlement consideration. These options will also be available to you if your amended return is deemed to be an application for abatement.  See, TIR 16-13: Changes to the Amended Return Process Expanded to Most Tax Types.

Every type of appeal has a strict deadline within which a taxpayer must start the appeals process. Make sure those deadlines are met because DOR doesn't have the legal obligation to open a case once the time for filing an appeal has expired. See section above “Are there time limits for filing an amended return or an application for abatement?”

Additionally, if DOR denies your application for abatement, you will have opportunity for further review with the Appellate Tax Board and the Appeals Court. Please see MGL c. 62C, § 39 and the Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Appellate Tax Board, 831 CMR 1.00 et seq, for more information and important time limitations.

Additional Resources for Filing an appeal with DOR

Understanding an audit or collection activity

DOR may not establish or enforce individual collection goals or collection quotas for its employees.

If you are unable to satisfy a tax liability in full, the Commissioner of Revenue may enter into a payment agreement if the Commissioner determines it will facilitate the collection of the tax.

You may obtain representation at any point in your dealings with the Department.

DOR collects hundreds of millions of dollars in delinquent or evaded taxes every year. These dollars help fund vital public programs while ensuring that all taxpayers pay their share of state taxes.

To protect taxpayers and to promote confidence in the entire tax system, there are many safeguards built into the enforcement of the Commonwealth's tax laws.

Individual cases are documented carefully to ensure that they are handled fairly and according to all Departmental policies and procedures.

Once a case is completed, taxpayers may make a written request to see their case files. Such requests should be forwarded to:

DOR's Legal Division, Disclosure Officer
PO Box 9565
Boston, MA 02114-9565

DOR employees do not receive bonuses or commissions based on the amount of delinquent tax dollars they uncover or collect.

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