Massachusetts Agencies

General Massachusetts Tax Liens

Liens, Special

General Massachusetts tax liens used to have a period of duration of six years. That has now been changed by legislation, effective as of January 1, 2005. The duration of such liens is now ten years. (Child support liens were originally not affected by this legislation and continued to have a duration of six years, subject to being extended upon refilling; however, these liens have also been affected by other legislation. See the memo on Child Support Liens.)

The language that governs the ten-year duration of the lien is more expansive than simply applying to liens recorded after January 1, 2005. The statute now provides as follows:

Any notice of lien in favor of the commonwealth recorded on a date making it less than 6 years old as of January 1, 2005 shall, if not sooner discharged as a result of payment of the tax, continue in full force and effect for a period of 10 years from the date of assessment of the tax without the need for any notice of lien refilling by the commissioner.

What this statute says is that if any particular lien remains outstanding and viable as of January 1, 2005 its duration will automatically be extended to ten years from the date of assessment. For example, if a recorded lien was assessed on March 1, 1999, it would still be outstanding on January 1, 2005 (it would still have two months to go before it would have expired under the six-year limitation), so its duration would be extended to March 1, 2009 (ten years after its assessment).

There once was a question whether Massachusetts tax liens would "catch" after-acquired property. Federal tax liens do, but the Massachusetts statute has always been silent on this point. It still is. However, regulations issued by DOR have taken the position that these liens do attach to after-acquired property. Moreover, court decisions have clarified the status of the lien with respect to after-acquired property and have given the DOR's regulations support. As early as 1986 our Appeals Court suggested that the after-acquired rule did not apply to Massachusetts tax liens, when it stated in Durkin v. Ferreira, 21 Mass.App.Ct. 771, 490 N.E.2d 498 (1986), "[w]hether a recorded tax lien under Chapter 62C, se. 50 applies to after-acquired property of record appears to be a matter about which doubt exists." That "doubt," however, was dispelled in Luchini v. Commissioner of Revenue, 436 Mass. 403, 764 N.E.2d 870 (2002) when the Supreme Judicial Court said that the Massachusetts statute contained "parallel language [to] the Federal tax liens statutes" and that those statutes had "long been construed to apply to after-acquired property."