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 1.  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 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. 

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.


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. 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 have an effect on 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 with the exception of 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.