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 for particular categories of property or persons and are generally found in "General Laws Chapter 59, Section 5." 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. Local option clauses are accepted by vote at a Town Meeting.
General Eligibility Requirements
Exempt status is determined by July 1st of a calendar year. A person must meet the ownership, domicile, age or any other eligibility criteria as of that date.
Personal exemptions must be applied for yearly. The application must be on the Department of Revenue (DOR) approved form. Exemption applications are due three months after the actual bill for the year is mailed. 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.
Granted or Denial
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 in Massachusetts for a period of time. 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.