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The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has established a two-month amnesty program for business taxpayers with existing tax liabilities. The program will run from April 1, 2010 to June 1, 2010 and will apply to tax years or periods ending on or before December 31, 2009. The program is limited to taxpayers with many existing business liabilities, including sales/use tax, sales tax on telecommunications services, meals tax, withholding income, room occupancy excise, gasoline excise, special fuels excise, and boat/recreational vehicles sales tax. See Technical Information Release for full list. Penalties will be waived for eligible taxpayers who pay the full outstanding balance and interest due. Any taxpayer who is eligible for the amnesty program, but fails to come forward before June 30, 2010 will, in addition to all other penalties, be subject to an additional penalty of $500. (Technical Information Release 10-5, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, March 12, 2010).


A liquor store, who sometimes delivers beverages to a customer and also provides related bartending services, was found subject to Massachusetts sales/meals tax. The store contended that it is not a restaurant and is not making sales of “meals” subject to sales/meals tax. The statutory definition of a restaurant includes caterers and any establishment where food or beverages are provided for a charge, regardless of who owns or operates the establishment. The argument that sales of alcohol alone are not considered meals was denied because a meal is defined as any food or beverage, or both. Since there is no agency relationship between the store and the customer, the question of whether the customer or caterer owns the meal at the time of sale is irrelevant. In addition, the taxable sales price includes fees for bartending and set-up, whether or not separately stated. (Letter Ruling 09-8, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, November 30, 2009)


The Massachusetts Governor signed legislation to implement a two-month tax amnesty program that is set to end no later than June 30, 2010. All penalties, in which the Commissioner has sole authority, will be waived provided the taxpayer files returns and makes payments as required by the tax amnesty program. Amnesty shall not apply to those penalties which the commissioner would not have the sole authority to waive including, but not limited to, fuel taxes administered under the International Fuel Tax Agreement or under the local option portions of taxes or excises collected for the benefit of cities, towns or state governmental authorities. The Commissioner will determine the scope of the program, including the particular tax types and periods covered, including any limited look-back period for unfiled returns. The amnesty program will not apply to taxpayers who were the subject of a tax-related criminal investigation or prosecution before the start date of the amnesty program. Any taxpayer who was eligible for the amnesty program, but failed to come forward before June 30, 2010 will, in addition to all other penalties, be subject to an additional penalty of $500. (Ch. 166 (H.B. 4359), Laws 2009, effective November 24, 2009)


Massachusetts has recently enacted legislature that increased the general sales and use tax rate from 5 to 6.25 percent, effective August 1, 2009. The Commissioner of Revenue may adopt reasonable transition rules to apply the increased sales and use tax rate to situations including but not limited to 1) the purchase of building materials and supplies to be used in construction, reconstruction, alternation, remolding, or repair of any building or structure as part of a contract entered into prior to the rate increase or entered into within 60 days after the rate increase if the contract is pursuant to a bid that was required to be submitted prior to the effective date; 2) unconditional written contracts for the sale of taxable tangible personal property entered into before the effective date but delivered not later than 90 days after the effective date; or 3) periodic bills for taxable services that include periods before and after the effective date. In the above rules 1 and 2, the increased tax rate would not apply to rentals or leases of tangible personal property. (H.B. 4129 (Ch. 27), approved (in part) by the Governor, 6/26/09)


The Massachusetts Commissioner of Revenue has established a two month amnesty program commencing on March 1, 2009 and ending on April 30, 2009. The program was created in effort to encourage the payment of delinquent tax for individuals, including income tax and use tax liabilities. The program applies only to liabilities for taxable years or periods ending on or before December 31, 2007. To qualify for the amnesty program, the taxpayer must be notified directly from the Commissioner with a “Tax Amnesty Notice.” If the taxpayer pays their full liability of tax and interest due, then the Commissioner is authorized to waive all unpaid penalties including those imposed for failure to file a timely return, failure to file a proper return, failure to timely pay a tax liability, and failure to pay the proper amount of any required estimated tax payments for such period. Penalties that have been or could be assessed against a taxpayer for any other tax types are not eligible for waiver under the Amnesty Program. (Technical Information Release 09-3, Massachusetts Department of Revenue, February 19, 2009)



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