Overview of Massachusetts Estate Tax Laws

Understanding How Massachusetts Estate Taxes Affect an Estate

If you live in Massachusetts, then you live in one of a handful of states that still collect a state estate tax. The estates of Massachusetts residents, as well as the estates of nonresidents who own real estate and/or tangible personal property located in Massachusetts, are subject to a state estate tax under the following guidelines.

NOTE: State laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When is an estate subject to the Massachusetts estate tax?


For Massachusetts residents, an estate may be subject to the Massachusetts estate tax if the value of the gross estate, plus adjusted taxable gifts, exceeds the applicable exclusion amount in the Internal Revenue Code in effect on December 31, 2000. The applicable exclusion amounts for Massachusetts estate tax purposes are $700,000 for 2003, $850,000 for 2004, $950,000 for 2005, and $1,000,000 for 2006 and later years. Thus, in general, under current law an estate may be subject to the Massachusetts estate tax if the value exceeds $1,000,000.

For nonresidents of Massachusetts, an estate may be subject to the Massachusetts estate tax if it includes real estate or tangible personal property having a taxable situs within the state of Massachusetts and the value of the gross estate exceeds $1,000,000 under the criteria set forth above.

What Massachusetts estate tax forms must be filed?


The estate representative of an estate that is subject to the Massachusetts estate tax must first complete a federal estate tax return, IRS Form 706, with a revision date of July 1999 and all applicable schedules. Once the federal return is completed, the estate representative can prepare the Massachusetts Estate Tax Return, Form M-706.

In addition to IRS Form 706 with a revision date of July 1999 and a Form M-706, the following documents may be required to be filed:

  • A Federal Closing Letter submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue within two months of receipt, if the filing of a federal Form 706 is required. This includes both the federal letter of acceptance and line adjustments, if any. Copies of federal changes must be accompanied by an Application for Abatement/Amended Return (Form CA-6), or by an amended Form M-706, as appropriate. No Massachusetts Estate Closing Letter will be issued without a copy of the Federal Closing Letter.
  • A Certificate Releasing Massachusetts Estate Tax Lien (Form M-792) in triplicate for each parcel of real estate where a release of lien is required. A copy of the deed or certificate of title, and the purchase and sale agreement (or mortgage commitment), if any, should be provided.
  • A Massachusetts Nonresident Decedent Affidavit (Form M-NRA) for the estates of nonresident decedents.

Are transfers to a surviving spouse taxable?


Outright transfers to a surviving spouse are not taxable.

For married couples who have used AB Trust planning to reduce their federal estate tax bill, a Massachusetts estate tax may be due on the B Trust as a result of a gap between the Massachusetts exemption and the federal exemption. In 2013, that gap is $4,250,000. Nonetheless, a married decedent's estate can make a Massachusetts-only election to treat a trust of which the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary as "qualified terminable interest property" ("QTIP Trust" for short) for purposes of calculating the Massachusetts estate tax. Thus, since there is a significant gap between the Massachusetts estate tax exemption and the federal exemption and a state-only QTIP election is allowed, married Massachusetts residents can defer payment of both Massachusetts and federal death taxes until after the death of the surviving spouse using ABC Trust planning.

When are the Massachusetts estate tax return and tax payment due?


The Massachusetts estate tax return must be filed, and any estate tax due must be paid, within nine months after the decedent's date of death.

By submitting an "Application for Extension of Time to File Massachusetts Estate Tax Return" (Form M-4768), an extension of time to file Form M-706 may be granted for a reasonable period, provided the application is made on or before the original due date of the return and 100% of the estimated amount of Massachusetts estate tax is paid. Failure to pay at least 80% of the amount of estate tax finally determined to be due on or before the due date will void any extension of time to file, and the return will be subject to the late filing penalty and, possibly, the late payment penalty. Interest will accrue on any unpaid tax from the original due date.

By filing an "Application for Extension of Time to Pay Massachusetts Estate Tax" (Form M-4768A), an extension of time to pay Massachusetts estate taxes may be granted for a reasonable period, but not to exceed six months. However, when an extension of time to pay is granted, interest on any unpaid tax accrues from the original due date. An extension is granted only for reasonable cause. An extension of up to three years from the due date may be granted upon a showing of undue hardship.

Where are the Massachusetts estate tax return filed and tax payment made?


Payment of the Massachusetts estate tax must be made by a check payable to the :Commonwealth of Massachusetts." Enter the decedent’s full name and Social Security number in the memo portion of the check. The executor signing the return is personally liable for payment of any tax shown on the return if it is not otherwise paid. The return and the tax payment should be sent to the following:

Massachusetts Estate Tax Unit
P.O. Box 7023
Boston, MA 02204

What is the Massachusetts estate tax rate?

Effective for dates of death on or after January 1, 2003, the Massachusetts estate tax for the estates of residents and nonresidents is computed with reference to the allowable federal estate tax credit for state death taxes allowed in the Internal Revenue Code in effect on December 31, 2000.

 

If an estate consists solely of property subject to Massachusetts estate taxation, it pays to Massachusetts an amount equal to the federal credit for state death taxes computed using the Internal Revenue Code in effect on December 31, 2000.

In the case of a resident of Massachusetts who owned or transferred real estate or tangible personal property located outside of Massachusetts, Massachusetts grants a credit for estate or inheritance taxes properly paid to other states.

In the case of a nonresident of Massachusetts who owned or transferred real estate or tangible personal property located in Massachusetts, the amount of the Massachusetts nonresident estate tax is the proportion of the allowable credit from the federal estate tax return that the gross value of the Massachusetts property bears to the entire federal gross estate wherever situated.

For an explanation and examples on how to calculate the Massachusetts estate tax, refer to following information listed on the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website: A Guide to Estate Taxes (Applicable to dates of death on or after January 1, 2003).

When is a release of Massachusetts estate tax lien required?


For dates of death on or after January 1, 1997, if the amount of the gross estate requires the filing of a Massachusetts estate tax return, a "Certificate Releasing Massachusetts Estate Tax Lien" (Form M-792) is required for real estate that is owned jointly with rights of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety, real estate that is held in a trust and other real estate that is not part of the probate inventory but is includible in the taxable gross estate. Form M-792 may be required for probate real estate where there is a sale pending (or mortgage commitment), and no closing letter has been issued.

For estates of decedents dying on or after January 1, 2003 that are not required to file M-706, an affidavit of the executor, subscribed to under the pains and penalties of perjury, recorded in the applicable Registry of Deeds and accurately stating that the value of the decedent's gross estate does not require a Massachusetts estate tax filing, is required to release the gross estate of the lien. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue does not publish blank affidavits for filing in the Registry of Deeds, although some Registries may publish sample affidavits and provide them to the public.

For the estates of decedents dying on or after January 1, 2003 that equal or exceed the Massachusetts filing requirement for the year of death, the Commissioner of Revenue will release the lien with respect to property if the Commissioner is satisfied that the collection of the tax will not be jeopardized. The Commissioner will release the lien by issuing Form M-792, "Certificate Releasing Massachusetts Estate Tax Lien."

Where can I find additional information about Massachusetts estate taxes?

For more information about Massachusetts estate taxes, refer to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue website: A Guide to Estate Taxes (Applicable to dates of death on or after January 1, 2003).

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