Massachusetts law about property taxes

Laws, cases, and web sources on property tax law, with links to forms for applying for property tax exemptions, deferrals, abatements, and land classification, as well as information about the tax title process when a municipality takes ownership of a property because of unpaid property taxes.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 58 General provisions relative to taxation

MGL c. 59 Assessment of local taxes

  • MGL c. 59, § 5 Property; exemptions
    Includes clauses for real estate tax exemptions for blind persons, qualifying senior citizens, qualifying surviving spouses, minor children and elderly persons, qualifying veterans, and religious and charitable organizations.
  • MGL c. 59, § 21C Proposition 2-1/2

MGL c. 60 Collection of local taxes; including:

  • §§ 45, 54, 77-80B Collector’s deeds, tax takings, sales by municipalities and foreclosure of tax liens.
    See also: Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, et al., which ruled that the taking of profits in excess of what is owed is a violation of the Fifth Amendment.
  • § 79 Sale without foreclosure; inquiries

MGL c. 61 Classification of forest lands and forest products

MGL c. 61A Assessment and taxation of agricultural and horticultural land

MGL c. 61B Classification and taxation of recreational land

Massachusetts regulations

830 CMR 58.3.1 Qualifications of assessors
Any person who is elected or appointed as an assessor is required to complete basic courses of training and pass an examination prepared by the Commissioner of Revenue within one year following election or appointment or within two years from September 16, 2022, whichever is later.

Selected cases

Tallage Lincoln, LLC v. Williams, 485 Mass. 449 (2020)
Because the process of tax collection after a property owner fails to pay taxes is so complicated, this case includes an Appendix to explain the laws and the collection process.

Town of Sudbury v. Commissioner of Corporations and Taxation, 366 Mass. 558 (1974)
This landmark decision found in favor of Sudbury’s contention that there were wide variations in local assessing practices, thereby resulting in unfair local aid distribution from the state to the municipalities. This case forever changed local assessment practices, with the Department of Revenue subsequently required to oversee real estate assessments at full and fair cash values. “For the property owner who wants to know”, from the International Association of Assessors, explains how real estate is valued by assessors.

Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, et al., 598 U.S. 631 (2023)
Profits exceeding what is owed during a foreclosure, such as a tax lien foreclosure, belong to the former property owner as it "constitute[s] a taking of property without just compensation, in violation of the Fifth Amendment."


Property tax forms and guides, Mass. Dept. of Revenue.
Taxpayers should use these forms and guides to apply for real estate tax exemptions, real estate tax deferrals, abatement of real property tax, and application for land classification (for Forest-Agricultural or Horticultural-Recreational Land Classification). These forms are filed with local assessors.

Real estate appeals forms, Mass. Appellate Tax Board.
The Mass. Appellate Tax Board is a quasi judicial state agency designed to conduct hearings and render decisions on appeals of all types of state and local taxes, including denials of property tax abatement applications. See their Helpful guide for taxpayers and assessors.

Roles in municipal finance: assessor, collector, and treasurer

The following resources offered by the Department of Revenue's Division of Local Services outline the roles of the principals involved in municipal finance related to property tax:

Web sources

Appellate Tax Board
Links to forms, Findings of Fact and Reports, Rules of Practice and Procedure, Decisions with Findings, and a Help and Resource Center.

Elder law education guide, Mass. Bar Association, 2020.
Chapter 8 of this 95-page guide explains how exemptions and deferrals work, and explains the Elderly and Disabled Tax Fund (MGL c.60, § 3D), the Senior Work-off Abatement (MGL c.59, § 5K) for municipalities that have adopted these programs, and the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit (MGL c.62, § 6(k)).

Land Court tax lien foreclosure cases resources
The Land Court has jurisdiction over all tax lien foreclosures in Massachusetts. The resources on this page provide a general summary of and information related to the tax lien foreclosure process that appears in MGL c.60.

Levy limits: a primer on Proposition 2 ½, Mass. Dept. of Revenue.
This primer was written for local officials to be able to understand the fundamentals of Proposition 2 ½. It explains the ways in which Proposition 2 ½ limits the property tax, and how the levy limit, a restriction on the amount of property taxes a community can levy, is calculated.

Local options data and reporting, Mass. Dept. of Revenue, Division of Local Services. 
Data and information relating to any locally adopted legislation impacting property taxes assess by communities.

Massachusetts property taxes, Mass. Dept. of Revenue.
Explains the basics about property taxes, discusses exemptions and abatements, the Appellate Tax Board, the role of the DOR, and Proposition 2 ½.

Property tax abatement tips, Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Property tax data and statistics, Mass. Dept. of Revenue, Division of Local Services. 
A list of popular reports relating to information collected during the annual tax rate process, includes tax rate, levies, assessed values and more for all Massachusetts towns and cities.

Property tax facts and figures, fiscal year 2021, City of Boston.
This annual publication presents an overview of property taxes In Boston using charts and tables to illustrate historical trends. While the figures are specific to Boston, much of the information presented would help to explain how any Massachusetts municipality values and taxes its real estate.

Property tax informationMass. Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Proposition 2½ and tax rate process, Mass. Dept. of Revenue, Division of Local Services.
This page provides helpful information on the mechanics of Levy Limits and Proposition 2½.

Real estate tax credit for persons age 65 and older (known as the "Circuit Breaker Tax Credit"), Mass. Dept. of Revenue.
Detailed explanation of the property tax credit for seniors who pay more than 10% of their income in property tax, MGL c. 62, § 6(k).

“Splitting the differences: Reviewing tax rate shifts,” Mass. Dept. of Revenue, Division of Local Services.
A good explanation of the process and the history behind the law giving cities and towns the ability to adopt different tax rates for certain classes of property (residential, open space, commercial and industrial) by local option within certain legal limits. With different tax rates for different classes of property, the tax burden can be shifted away from the residential class.

Tax lien foreclosure guidance after the Supreme Court’s decision in Tyler v. Hennepin County, Mass. Attorney General.
Guide to help homeowners, cities, and towns understand the changing legal landscape of real estate tax lien foreclosures in Massachusetts under the “Tax Lien Foreclosure Law,” G.L. c. 60 (or “Chapter 60”), after the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States.

What happens if I don't pay property taxes in Massachusetts?, Nolo.
This article is an easy-to-read explanation of what happens if you do not pay your property tax. Discusses the role of banks in requiring escrow accounts to pay real estate taxes, and explains the homeowner’s right of redemption in tax taking cases.

Print sources

Crocker’s notes on common forms, 12th ed., MCLE, loose-leaf, Chapter 30, Tax Sales, Takings and Titles. This chapter is written for the conveyancing attorney who is "principally interested in securing releases or in titles depending on tax titles." It makes reference to case law on the subject.

Municipal law and practice, 5th ed., (Mass Practice v. 18B) Thomson/West, 2006 with supplement. Chapter 36 Local Taxation, Chapter 37 Collection of Taxes.

Real estate tax abatement practice and procedure6th ed., MCLE, 2020.

Taxation, 5th ed., (Mass Practice v. 4), 2009 with supplement. Part 7 Property Tax.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about property taxes

Last updated: March 14, 2024

Help Us Improve  with your feedback

Please do not include personal or contact information.