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Legislative Viewpoint

The Circuit Breaker:

Tax relief for Massachusetts senior citizens

Senator Stan RosenbergSenator Stan RosenbergDear Friends,

Here’s a reminder about “The Circuit Breaker,” a tax credit for Massachusetts senior citizens age 65 an older.

It’s called the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit because it is “triggered,” like an electrical circuit breaker, when property tax payments exceed 10 percent of a senior’s annual income.

Those who qualify will still be required to pay property taxes to their local communities. But they will receive a dollar credit for every dollar their property tax, and certain water and sewer bills, exceed 10 percent of their income, up to the $1,080 maximum.

Senior citizens who rent their homes can also take advantage of the same dollar for dollar credit, up to the same $1,080 maximum, if 25 percent of their annual rent exceeds 10 percent of their annual income.

No special application is required. If you are qualified, you can receive this credit by filling out a 2017 Massachusetts state income tax return before the April 2018 deadline. Official information packets from the state Department of Revenue for 2017 state income tax returns will include Circuit Breaker schedules and will be available in local libraries and post offices beginning early in 2018.

Here are the basic requirements for eligibility:

  • Must be a Massachusetts resident, age 65 or older;
  • Must own or rent residential property in Massachusetts as your primary residence;
  • Must have an annual income of $57,000 or less for a single filer; $72,000 or less for a head of household; and $86,000 or less for joint filers.

You are ineligible for this tax credit if:

  • You are married and do not file a joint a return;
  • You are a dependent of another tax filer;
  • You receive a federal or state rent subsidy directly, or live in a property tax exempt facility;
  • Your property is assessed at a value greater than $747,000.

This tax credit was approved in 1999, was implemented in 2001, and is based on a bill I filed as a member of the House of Representatives after hearing concerns raised by seniors in Pelham. I then worked with a number of my Senate colleagues, including then-Senate President Thomas Birmingham, for several years to create this program. Over the years it has helped tens of thousands of seniors save more than $660 million on their property taxes.

If you need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact my district office at 413-587-6365, or the state Department of Revenue Customer Service Bureau at 617-887-MDOR, or toll-free at 800-392-6089, or visit their website,

Best Wishes,

State Senator