Statutory Exemptions

Massachusetts law provides for an exemption from local property taxes for certain qualifying organizations. Not all organizations will qualify for this exemption, and not all properties of qualified organizations will be eligible for exemption. By law, the burden of establishing entitlement to an exemption falls upon the person or organization seeking the exemption.

Chapter 59, Section 5, of the Massachusetts General Laws recognizes several types of organizations that may be eligible for a tax exemption. Two such organization types are profiled below:

Steps to Obtaining a Statutory Exemption

In order for an organization to procure exemption from local property taxes, the entity must take steps to ensure its eligibility. No exemption will be granted to an organization until it has filed for exemption and has been approved by the Assessing Department as a qualifying organization.

Charitable, benevolent, educational, literary, temperance or scientific organizations must meet the following basic requirements before applying for an exemption:

  • The organization must be a charitable corporation or a Massachusetts charitable trust.

  • Every organization and trust owning real or personal property on January 1 preceding the fiscal year must file a State Form 3ABC in order to receive a tax exemption.

  • The organization must own and occupy the property at issue for its charitable purposes on July 1 of the tax year. Occupancy may be established as follows:
    • Real property occupied on July 1 by the organization for its charitable purposes, provided those purposes are regarded as charitable under Massachusetts local taxation law, OR

    • Real property occupied on July 1 by other charitable organizations, for their charitable purposes, provided those purposes are regarded as charitable under Massachusetts local taxation law, OR

    • Real property purchased by the organization on or before July 1 with the purpose of removal thereto, until such removal, but not for more than two years after such purchase.

Religious organizations that own property used as houses of worship or parsonages must meet the following basic requirements before applying for an exemption:

  • The house of worship or parsonage must be owned by or held in irrevocable trust for the exclusive benefit of the religious organization.

  • Under Clause Eleventh, the exemption cannot be extended to any portion of a house of worship that is used for other than religious purposes (other portions would need to qualify for exemption under M.G.L. Chapter 59, Section 5, Clause Third)

  • The house of worship must be owned and occupied as such on July 1 of the tax year.

If the basic requirements above are met, the organization may file for exemption. There are two ways an organization can file for consideration for exemption: 1) the Preliminary Consideration Procedure, or 2) the Standard Abatement Procedure.

Preliminary Consideration can be pursued prior to the issuance of the third quarter tax bill. Applications are generally made available in April preceding the start of the fiscal year and must be filed generally no later than September 3rd. By way of example, an organization seeking exemption consideration for fiscal year 2014 would be able to obtain a Preliminary Consideration Application between April and September 3rd of calendar year 2013.

The Standard Abatement Procedure is available beginning with the issuance of the third quarter tax bill and ending with the last date of payment for that period. By way of example, an organization seeking exemption consideration for fiscal year 2013 will be able to obtain an application once the third quarter tax bill has been issued in January 2013. Applications for abatement must be filed no later than the last date of payment for the third quarter bill.

Applying for a Statutory Exemption: Preliminary Consideration

Organizations seeking exemption from local property taxes in advance of the issuance of the fiscal year 2014 tax bill can file a Preliminary Consideration Information Requisition Form. Forms for fiscal year 2015 will be available in April 2014 and are due no later than July 31, 2014.

The information returned with the Preliminary Consideration application, including but not limited to the organization's articles of organization, trust, and by-laws, is reviewed by the Board of Assessors to determine the taxable or exempt status of an organization's real and/or personal property. The Assessing Department may ask for additional information on a case by case basis, and a site visit may be necessary to verify use and occupancy at the property.

NOTE: Filing a Preliminary Consideration Information Requisition Form does not permit an organization to postpone the payment of the tax. If the total tax on real estate is more than three thousand dollars ($3,000), the tax generally must be paid on time to preserve the organization's appeal rights. Please refer to M.G.L. Chapter 59, Section 64, for more information.

Applying for a Statutory Exemption: Abatement Application

When submitting the department-approved abatement application for the purpose of obtaining a statutory exemption, supporting documentation such as the organization's articles of organization, trust, by-laws and other information about the organization must be submitted with the application. If sufficient information is not submitted with the application, it must be provided within thirty (30) days after filing the application.

An inspection of the property maybe conducted by a member of the Assessing Department staff.

NOTE: Filing a department-approved abatement application does not permit an organization to postpone the payment of the tax. If the total tax on real estate is more than three thousand dollars ($3,000), the tax generally must be paid on time to preserve the organization's appeal rights. Please refer to M.G.L. Chapter 59, Section 64, for more information.

Where to obtain an abatement application:

The abatement application for Statutory Exemption is available at the Assessing Department, Room 301, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201-1050, or online during the filing period ONLY. The filing period immediately follows the issuance of the third quarter fiscal year tax bill and runs until the last date of payment for the third quarter.

When completing the abatement application, organizations should check the box next to Statutory Exemption when asked to provide the reason for filing.

Abatement applications must be filed by the third quarter payment deadline. Applicants will then have thirty (30) days from the date on which the abatement application was filed to complete and file the Statutory Exemption Information Requisition Form.

View Various Abatement Application Related Forms
NOTE: Certain forms are only available during the filing season(s) as described above.

The 3ABC Requirement

Organizations and trusts owning real or personal property on January 1 preceding the fiscal year must file a Form 3ABC Return of Property Held for Charitable and Other Purposes Form. The Form 3ABC is a state tax form that must be filed on an annual basis by March 1 preceding the start of the fiscal year. If the form is not filed in a timely manner in a given year, the organization's tax exemption may not be granted.

Fraternal and veteran organizations are not required by law to file the Form 3ABC. Religious organizations are not required to file the Form 3ABC unless the organization owns tax-exempt property that is used for a purpose other than as a house of worship or as a parsonage.

The 3ABC requirement applies to all organizations seeking the benefit of a statutory exemption, including new applicants as well as previously exempt properties.

Attached to the Form 3ABC must be a "true copy" of the Form PC-1 which is filed every year with the Public Charities Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General's office located at:

One Ashburton Place,
Boston, MA 02108.

The Form 3ABC is available by clicking here, or a hard copy can be obtained at:

Hobbs & Warren, Inc.
11 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 523-2282

NOTE: Under the authority of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, the City of Boston Assessing Department requires charitable organizations filing Form 3ABC for property located in Boston to provide additional tenant information under Section D, REAL ESTATE.

Contact Information

To learn more about statutory exemptions please call Vanessa Weathers, Member, Board of Review, at (617) 635-4260.