State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Retirees
Tool | November 2019

State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Retirees


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The Bottom Line
Flag of Massachusetts

Not Tax-Friendly

The Bay State offers a couple of breaks to retirees. Massachusetts does not tax Social Security and most government employee pension income. But all other income is taxed at a flat rate of 5.15%. Property taxes run high, although there is a refundable tax credit available to eligible homeowners 65 or older. Massachusetts also has its own estate tax.

State Sales Tax

6.25% state levy. No local taxes. Most clothing and footwear priced at under $175 per item are exempt.

Income Tax Range

Massachusetts has a flat rate of 5.1% of federal adjusted gross income.

Effective tax rate: 5.1% for single filers, 5.1% for joint filers

Social Security

Benefits are not taxed.

Exemptions for Other Retirement Income

Income from federal government, Massachusetts state and local government, and military retirement plans is exempt. In addition, a deduction is available for pension income from other state or local governments that do not tax Massachusetts public pensions.

Railroad Retirement benefits are also exempt.

Property Taxes

In Massachusetts, residents pay an average of $1,294 in taxes per $100,000 of assessed home value.

Tax breaks for seniors: Massachusetts homeowners and renters who are 70 or older may qualify to claim a refundable tax credit on their state income taxes to offset real estate taxes paid during the year on their principal home. The taxpayer’s total income cannot exceed $58,000 for a single filer, $73,000 for a head of household or $88,000 for taxpayers filing jointly. For homeowners, the value of the residence cannot exceed $747,000. For 2018, the maximum credit is $1,100. Some Massachusetts cities and towns offer a “senior citizen property tax work-off program,” which allows seniors to do volunteer work for their local governments in exchange for a reduction in their property taxes. Senior homeowners age 60 or older must meet local program requirements to participate.

Vehicle Taxes

Sales tax is due. Massachusetts levies an annual excise tax on vehicles. The rate is $25 per $1,000 of assessed value, and the value is set by taking the car’s sticker price (MSRP) and discounting it based on the age of the vehicle. Example: A three-year-old car that sold for $30,000 would have a tax bill of $300.

Inheritance and Estate Taxes

Estates valued at more than $1 million are subject to estate tax. Tax rates range from 0.8% to 16%. There is an unlimited marital deduction for property left to a surviving spouse and an unlimited charitable deduction for property left to a qualified charity.