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State and Local Tax Law: Massachusetts Law

Constitution

The Massachusetts Constitution lays the foundation for tax law in this state. See these provisions, for example:

Mass. Const. pt. 1, art. 10:

Each individual is "obliged to ...contribute his share" to the protection of "life, liberty and property"

Mass. Const. pt. 1, art. 23:

General Court has the sole power to levy taxes

Mass. Const. pt. 1, art. 44:

Establishes the income tax         

Mass. Const. pt. 2, c.1, sec. 1, art 4

Individuals, property, estates and goods may be taxed

Pending Legislation

Check out the Joint Committee on Revenue's webpage for bills currently in committee.

Statutes

Title IX of the Massachusetts General Laws governs Taxation. The following chapters are commonly referenced:

Chapters 59 and 60: Assessment and Collection of Local Taxes
Chapter 62: Taxation of Incomes
Chapter 62C: Admin. Provisions Relative to State Taxation
Chapter 63: Taxation of Corporations
Chapter 64H Taxation of Retail Sales

Chapter 65C:

 

Massachusetts Estate Tax

 

Massachusetts' statutory code may be found here:

         Also available online from the MA Legislature (unofficial)

         Also available on WestlawNext

         Also available on Lexis Advance

Tax statutes may also be found in the Official MassTax Guide (published by West in cooperation with the Department of Revenue)  

Use an annotated code to find cases interpreting statutory sections, citations to related regulations, and recommended secondary sources to help further your research. 

Cases

Statutes are the main source of tax law -- so emphasis is on the language as written.  In some instances, a court may be called upon to interpret a tax statute.  To find cases:

  1. If you have a relevant tax statute, use a citator (Shepard's, KeyCite, B-Cite) to get a list of cases that cite to it

  2. Use the Official MassTax Guide or an annotated version of the MGL to find cases citing to the tax statutes.

  3. Use West's Massachusetts Digest, 2d, which is arranged by subject, to search across cases by keyword.

    Or, use West's KeyNumber System on Westlaw Next 

  4. Consult the CCH Massachusetts Tax Reporter by tax (income, sales and use, etc.)

  5. Look for cases cited in the footnotes of Secondary Sources.

Regulations

Chapters 14 and 62C of the MGL give the Commissioner of Revenue the power to prescribe regulations and rulings to enforce tax statutes.

Tax regulations are located in Title 830 of the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR). Regulations are binding on all taxpayers.

Find tax regulations here:

Public Written Statements

Regulations permit the Department of Revenue to issue public written statements to inform and educate taxpayers on their tax obligations. See 830 CMR 62C.3.1.  Some examples of public written statements are:

LETTER RULINGS

These are advisory rulings from the Commissioner of Revenue to a taxpayer, applying tax laws to a taxpayer's particular situation. They are only for the benefit of the specific taxpayer, though they can be informative to others with factually similar matters.

Find letter rulings here:

TECHNICAL INFORMATION RELEASES (TIRs)

The Commissioner on Revenue uses these to explain the DOR's official position with respect to tax law changes in federal or state tax laws, and on court decisions interpreting those laws. These are binding on all taxpayers.

Find TIRs here: