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Sales and use taxes

Taxable goods

What goods are subject to sales and use tax in your state (at both state and local level)?

Massachusetts does not have local-level sales taxes. 

At the state level, all tangible personal property (including gas, electricity, and steam) not specifically exempted from taxation is subject to sales tax. Notably, ‘tangible personal property’ is defined to include “standardized computer software.” Services are not generally subject to sales tax, except certain telecommunications services.

State rate

What is the state sales tax rate?

6.25%.

Local rates

What is the range of local sales tax rates levied in your state?

N/A.

Exemptions

What goods are exempt from sales and use tax?

Massachusetts law provides an extremely long list of items that may not be subject to tax because of the nature of either the item itself or its use. The following is a non-exhaustive list of the types of sales that are generally exempt:

  • casual and isolated sales by a vendor who is not regularly engaged in the business of making sales at retail;
  • sales to the United States, the commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof, or their respective agencies;
  • sales to certain entities exempt from tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Federal Internal Revenue Code;
  • sales of building materials and supplies to be used in the construction, reconstruction, alteration, remodeling or repair of:
  • any building structure, public highway, bridge or other public works owned by or held in trust for the benefit of certain governmental bodies or agencies and used exclusively for public purposes;
  • any building or structure owned by or held in trust for the benefit of certain corporations, foundations, organizations or institutions and used exclusively in the conduct of its religious, scientific, charitable or educational purposes;
  • any building, structure, residence, school or other facility included under any written contract dated on or after January 1, 1985 arising out of or related to the Massachusetts Port Authority residential and school soundproofing programs, notwithstanding whether such building, structure, residence, school or other facility is owned by or held in trust for the benefit of the Massachusetts Port Authority or is used exclusively for public purposes,  provided, however, that such governmental body or agency or such corporation, foundation, organization or institution shall have first obtained a certificate from the commissioner stating that it is entitled to such exemption and the vendor keeps a record of the sales price of each such separate sale, the name of the purchaser, the date of each such separate sale and the number of such certificate; and
  • sales of tangible personal property includable in the measure of the excise taxes relating to gasoline and fuels;
  • sales of food products for human consumption;
  • sales, furnishing or service of:
  • water;
  • gas, steam or electricity used for residential purposes;
  • gas, steam or electricity that are consumed and used directly and exclusively in an industrial plant in the actual manufacture of tangible personal property to be sold or in the heating of such industrial plant; 
  • sales of fuel used for residential heating purposes and fuel used for heating purposes in an industrial plant; 
  • sales of articles of clothing, including footwear, intended to be worn or carried on or about the human body up to $175 of the sale price on any article of clothing (with certain exceptions for athletic wear); 
  • sales of:
  • medicine, insulin needles and insulin syringes on prescriptions of registered physicians and sales of insulin;
  • oxygen, blood or blood plasma;
  • artificial devices individually designed, constructed or altered solely for the use of a particular disabled person so as to become a brace, support, supplement, correction or substitute for the bodily structure including the extremities of the individual;
  • artificial limbs, artificial eyes, hearing aids, and other equipment worn as a correction or substitute for any functioning portion of the body;
  • artificial teeth by a dentist and the materials used by a dentist in dental treatment;
  • eyeglasses, when especially designed or prescribed by an ophthalmologist, oculist or optometrist for the personal use of the owner or purchaser;
  • crutches and wheelchairs for the use of disabled persons; and
  • baby oil; and
  • the rental, sales and repairs of kidney dialysis machines, enteral and parenteral feedings, and feeding devices, suction machines, physician-prescribed, medically necessary breast pumps, oxygen concentrators, oxygen regulators, oxygen humidifiers, oxygen masks, oxygen cannulas, ultrasonic nebulizers, life sustaining resuscitators, incubators, heart pacemakers, canes, all types of hospital bed for home use, tripod quad canes, breast prosthesis, alternating pressure pad units and patient lifts, when prescribed by a physician;
  • sales of newspapers, magazines, books required for instructional purposes in educational institutions, books used for religious worship, publications of non-profit organizations; 
  • sales of coffins, caskets, burial garments or other materials that are ordinarily sold by a funeral director as part of the business of funeral directing;
  • sales of vessels or barges of 50 tons burden or over when constructed in the commonwealth and sold by builders thereof;
  • sales of fuel or substitute therefor, supplies and repairs to vessels engaged in foreign and interstate commerce and sales of vessels used directly and exclusively in commercial fishing, machinery and equipment therefor and replacement parts for such vessels, machinery and equipment;
  • sales of:
  • livestock and poultry of a kind that ordinarily constitute food for human consumption;
  • feed, including the bags in which the feed is customarily contained, for livestock and poultry of a kind that ordinarily constitute food for human consumption or are to be sold in the regular course of business or for fur-bearing animals, the pelts of which are sold in the regular course of business or for animals produced for research, testing, or other purposes relating to the promotion or maintenance of the health, safety or wellbeing of human beings or animals; and
  • plants, including parts of plants, suitable for planting to produce food for human consumption or when such plants, including parts thereof or the produce thereof, are to be sold in the regular course of business, including such items as seed potatoes, onion sets, asparagus roots, berry plants or bushes, and fruit trees;
  • sales of:
  • both returnable and non-returnable containers when sold without the contents to persons who place the contents in the container and sell the contents together with the container;
  • containers when sold with the contents if the sale price of the contents is not required to be included in the measure of the sales tax;
  • returnable containers when sold with the contents or resold for refilling.

As used in this paragraph, the term ‘returnable containers’ means containers of a kind customarily returned by the buyer of the contents for reuse. All other containers are ‘non-returnable’ containers. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed so as to tax the sale of bags in which feed for livestock and poultry is contained;

  • sales of materials, tools and fuel, or any substitute therefor, that become an ingredient or component part of tangible personal property to be sold or that are consumed and used directly and exclusively in:
  • agricultural production;
  • commercial fishing;
  • an industrial plant in the actual manufacture of tangible personal property to be sold, including the publishing of a newspaper;
  • the operation of commercial radio broadcasting or television transmission;
  • the furnishing of power to an industrial manufacturing plant;
  • the furnishing of gas, water, steam or electricity, when delivered to consumers through mains, lines or pipes;
  • the production of animals for research, testing, or other purposes relating to the promotion or maintenance of the health, safety or well-being of human beings or animals or in research and development by a manufacturing corporation or a research and development corporation;
  • sales of machinery, or replacement parts thereof, used directly and exclusively in:
  • agricultural production;
  • commercial fishing;
  • an industrial plant in the actual manufacture of tangible personal property to be sold, including the publishing of a newspaper;
  • the operation of commercial radio broadcasting or television transmission;
  • the furnishing of power to an industrial manufacturing plant;
  • the furnishing of gas, water, steam or electricity when delivered to consumers through mains, lines or pipes;
  • the production of animals for research, testing, or other purposes relating to the promotion or maintenance of the health, safety or well-being of human beings or animals or in research and development by a manufacturing corporation or a research and development corporation; 
  • sale of a motor vehicle purchased by and for the use of a person who has suffered loss, or permanent loss of use of, both legs or both arms or one leg and one arm or by and for the use of a veteran who has been determined to be permanently disabled by the medical advisory board and has been issued a disabled veteran number plate under Section 2 of said Chapter 90. This exemption shall apply to one motor vehicle only owned and registered for the personal, non-commercial use of such person;
  • sales of wearing materials or any cloth made up of natural or synthetic fibers and used for clothing purpose;
  • sales of the flag of the United States;
  • sales of fire trucks to any volunteer, non-profit fire company or similar organization furnishing public fire protection, and sales of ambulances to any volunteer, non-profit organization furnishing a public ambulance service, provided that such company or organization has first obtained certain certifications;
  • sales of concrete mixing units or replacement parts thereof, to be mounted on truck chassis, provided, however, that sales of truck chassis shall not be exempt under this paragraph;
  • all medical implements, pads, pouches and solutions purchased by a person who has undergone a colostomy or an ileostomy and which are used entirely as the result of such operation;
  • sales of new and used motor buses used to provide scheduled, intracity local service (as defined by the department of telecommunications and energy), and repair or replacement parts therefor, and materials and tools used in and for the maintenance and repair thereof, and for the use of common carriers of passengers by motor vehicle for hire, which hold at least one certificate, issued by the Department of Telecommunications and Energy pursuant to certain sections of Massachusetts law;  
  • sales of equipment directly relating to any solar, wind-powered, or heat pump system, that is being utilized as a primary or auxiliary power system for the purpose of heating or otherwise supplying the energy needs of an individual's principal residence in the commonwealth;
  • sales of patterns, molds, dies, tools, sand-handling equipment and machinery, and replacement parts thereof, used exclusively in the manufacture of cast metal products to be sold in the regular course of business;
  • sales of printed material that is manufactured in the commonwealth to the special order of a purchaser, to the extent that such material is delivered to an interstate carrier, a mailing house or a US post office for delivery or mailing to a purchaser located outside the commonwealth or a purchasers designee located outside the commonwealth, including sales of direct and cooperative direct mail promotional advertising materials that are manufactured both inside and outside the commonwealth and distributed to residents of the commonwealth from locations both inside and outside the commonwealth. For the purpose of this paragraph, ‘direct and cooperative direct mail promotional advertising materials’ shall mean individual discount coupons, or advertising leaflets incorporating such coupons within the promotional advertising materials no greater than six pages in total length, and including any accompanying envelopes and labels. In order to be exempt hereunder, such promotional advertising materials will be distributed as a part of a package of materials promoting one or more than one business, each operated at separate and distinct locations, and directed in a single package to potential customers, at no charge to the potential customer, of the businesses paying for the delivery of such material. For the purpose of this paragraph, ‘direct and cooperative direct mail promotional advertising materials’ shall not include mail order catalogs, department store catalogs, telephone directories, or similar printed advertising books, booklets or circulars greater than six pages in total length;
  • sales by a typographer, compositor or color separator of composed type, film positives, film negatives, or reproduction proofs thereof, for use in the preparation of printed matter or folding boxes to be sold, or the fabrication or transfer of such film positives, film negatives, reproduction proofs or impressed matters where the fabrication is for and the transfer is to a printer, publisher, or manufacturer of folding boxes, for use in printing;
  • rental receipts or charges in connection with service contracts by and between waste service firms and customers for the use, maintenance and repair of refuse containers or bins placed on customers' premises by waste service firms;
  • sales of ‘scientific equipment or apparatus’ within the meaning of Section 170(e)(4)(B)(v) of the Federal Internal Revenue Code as amended on January 1, 1983, by the manufacturer when such scientific equipment or apparatus is donated by said manufacturer at no charge to a public or private nonprofit educational institution located in the commonwealth or to the Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation for the purposes of Section 6(b)(4) of Chapter 40J, or to the Bay State Skills Corporation;
  • sales of tangible personal property purchased with federal food stamps and not otherwise exempt under this chapter;
  • sales of $100 or more of:
  • rare coins of numismatic value;
  • gold or silver bullion or coins; or
  • gold or silver tender of any nation traded and sold according to its value as precious metal.

The word ‘bullion’ shall not include fabricated precious metal that has been processed or manufactured for industrial, professional or artistic uses;

  • sales of vessels used exclusively to provide scheduled commuter passenger service, repair or replacement parts therefor, and materials and tools used in and for the maintenance and repair thereof;
  • sales of gas, steam, electricity or heating fuel for use by any business that has five or fewer employees, that had gross income of less than $1 million for the preceding calendar year, and that reasonably expects gross income of less than $1 million for the current calendar year. For purposes of this paragraph, ‘employees’ shall include partners, owners, officers and any other individuals who work for the business, but shall not include any employee who normally works for fewer than 30 hours per week or who is hired for a period of less than five months. For purposes of this paragraph, a ‘business’ shall include all members of an affiliated group, as defined by Section 1504 of the Internal Revenue Code, and any other combination of related parties as the state taxing agency may define by regulation, provided, however, that:
  • the state taxing agency commissioner may, by regulation, require that such business have first obtained a certification from the commissioner stating that it is entitled to such exemption and maintain such employment and other records indicating its continuing eligibility for such exemption;
  • the vendor keeps a record of the sales price of each such separate sale, and the number of such certificate; and
  • any other conditions and requirements under which a business may qualify for this exemption, provided, further, that the burden of proving that such business qualifies shall be upon the vendor, unless it takes in good faith from the purchaser such certificate to the effect that the business qualifies for this exemption and such certificate is received and made available to the commissioner not later than 60 days from the date of the notice from the commissioner to produce such certificate;
  • sales of commercial gun safes and trigger lock devices;
  • sales of:
  • machinery and equipment if its operation, function or purpose is an integral or essential part of a continuous production flow or process of manufacturing printed material to be sold and such machinery and equipment is used exclusively for that purpose; and
  • prepress items that are used exclusively as part of a continuous production flow or process of manufacturing printed material to be sold;
  • sales of tangible personal property purchased by a consultant contractor or subcontractor, or operating contractor or subcontractor, of certain governmental bodies or agencies, for use in fulfilling a consulting or operating contract to provide qualified services in a public project, provided that the consultant contractor or subcontractor or operating contractor or subcontractor is required both to acquire such property and to be reimbursed for the cost of such property pursuant to such contract;
  • sales of repair or replacement parts exclusively for use in aircraft or in the significant overhauling or rebuilding of aircraft or aircraft parts or components on a factory basis;
  • sales of aircraft; and
  • sales of tangible personal property to a qualifying motion picture production company or to an accredited film school student for the production expenses related to a school film project.

Services

Are any services taxed?

No, except certain telecommunications taxes.

Filing requirements

What filing requirements and procedures apply?

Vendors with annual sales tax collections of $1,201 or more must remit monthly tax returns that are due 20 days after the end of the filing period—that is, February 20 for a January filing period. The forms to use are Form ST-9 for goods and Form STS for services.

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