Personal Exemptions

An exemption is a release or discharge from the obligation to pay all or a  portion of a local property tax. Exemptions are established by the  legislature on certain property and for certain qualifying persons and can be  found in "Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, Section 5". An exemption  is a privilege and a taxpayer must demonstrate that they clearly qualify. 

There are several categories of individuals who may qualify for tax  exemptions because of their personal status. For each personal exemption  there are specific clauses in General Laws Chapter 59, Section 5 that  establish the amount of the exemption and eligibility requirements. A local  option clause is accepted by vote at a Town Meeting. 


General Eligibility Requirements 

Exempt status is determined by July 1. A person must meet the ownership,  domicile, age or any other eligibility criteria as of that date. 

Personal exemptions must be applied for annually. The application must be  on the DOR approved form. Exemption applications are due April 1st. The application should include any documentation that supports the eligibility of  the applicant. Applications may only be inspected by the assessors and their  staff, DOR, other state and local officials in the performance of official duties  and designated private auditors. However, taxpayers granted exemptions  and the exemption amounts is a public record. 

Assessors have three months from the date they receive an application to  grant or deny the exemption. The applicant is deemed denied if the  assessors do not act. Applicants denied any exemptions except the  exemption for financial hardship, may appeal to the state Appellate Tax  Board. The appeal must be filed within three months of the date the  exemption was denied. 

An applicant must have an ownership interest in the property on July 1st.  The applicant can be the sole owner or own the property with others. Some  exemptions also have durational ownership requirements. An applicant who  holds a life estate in the property is the owner of that property for tax  purposes including exemptions. If the property is in a trust the applicant  must be a trustee and beneficiary of the trust to satisfy the requirement. An  applicant must occupy the property as his or her domicile on July 1st and in  some instances, been domiciled in the property or other property within  Massachusetts for a period depending on the exemption. A domicile is the  place where the applicant has his or her principal and legal home, is the place where family, social, civic and economic life is centered and where the  applicant plans to return whenever he or she is away. 

Filing on time is required for all exemptions. By law, the  assessors may not waive this filing deadline, nor act on a  late application, for any reason. Filing an application does  not entitle you to delay your tax payment. 



A certificate from the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or the branch of service from which the service person was discharged, establishes status as a disabled veteran (Form DD214). The other information regarding military service that relates to eligibility such as residency before enlistment, service  period, military decorations and honorable discharge is obtained from the  discharge papers. 



A surviving spouse is a person who was married to the decedent at the time  of his or her death and for most exemptions has never remarried, for some exemptions for disabled veterans, remarriage does not affect survivorship  status. 



A "Certificate of Legal Blindness" from the MA Commission for the Blind must  be submitted with the application every year. You must occupy the property  as your domicile. In the first year you apply for an application, you may  substitute a statement from a doctor certifying you are legally blind  according to the Commissioners' specifications. All eligibility requirements  must be met as of July 1 of the tax year. 



Documentation to establish eligibility must be submitted with the application  every year. This information may include birth certificates, evidence of  ownership, domicile and occupancy and bank and other asset account  statements. You must be 70 or older to be a senior, younger than 18 to be  a minor child and you must have been married to the decedent at the time  of his or her death, and have never remarried, to be a surviving spouse. 



A taxpayer who receives a personal exemption may not receive another  exemption on the property except for a Clause 18 hardship exemption. If a  taxpayer qualifies for more than one personal exemption the Assessors  should grant the exemption that provides the greatest benefit.