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The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 7B: Small claims procedure

Section 7B. (a) The board shall establish by rule a further alternative procedure, hereinafter referred to as the small claims procedure, for the determination of petitions for abatement of any tax or excise to which the provisions of chapter 62C apply, as they are or may be specified in section 2 of said chapter 62C. Unless the appellant affirmatively requests that the case be heard under the formal procedure provided in section 7, the small claims procedure shall govern any case in which the amount of tax placed in dispute by the petition does not exceed (i) $25,000 for any taxable year, in the case of a tax imposed by taxable year; (ii) $25,000 for any calendar year, in the case of a tax imposed by calendar year; (iii) $25,000 for any calendar year, in the case of a tax imposed by chapters 64A to 64J, inclusive, and section 21 of chapter 138; (iv) $25,000 in the case of a tax imposed by chapter 65C; or (v) $25,000 for any taxable event or transaction in the case of any other tax. For purposes of this section, the amount of any tax or excise placed in dispute does not include any interest, penalty, or addition to tax imposed by chapter 62C or any statute referred to in section 2 of said chapter. If, however, only the assessment or the amount of interest and/or penalties is in dispute, said interest and penalties shall not exceed $25,000.

(b) Proceedings under the small-claims procedure shall be conducted as informally as possible in accordance with such rules of evidence, practice, and procedure as the board may prescribe. To the extent that the board may consider practicable, the small-claims procedure shall eliminate formal rules of pleading, practice, and evidence, and except for the entry fee herein provided, may eliminate any or all fees and costs, or may provide that costs shall be in the discretion of the board. The chairman shall provide for the speedy hearing of all appeals to be heard under the small-claims procedure.

(c) An appellant filing an appeal under the small claims procedure shall pay the clerk an entry fee as determined annually by the secretary of administration and finance under section 3B of chapter 7 and shall file a written statement of the facts of the case and of the amount claimed in abatement together with any additional information as the clerk may require. The appellant shall also file a written waiver of the right to appeal to any court. Within 5 business days after receipt of the petition, the clerk shall notify the parties to confirm the scheduling of the appeal and serve a copy of the small claims procedure petition and accompanying information upon the commissioner of revenue. Within 25 business days after the service of the statement or at another time as the board may order, the commissioner of revenue shall file with the board an answer similar to that required under the formal procedure provided by section 7.

(d) Any case in which the appellant has filed an appeal under the small-claims procedure, as provided in subsections (a) and (c) above, shall be designated and docketed as a small-claims case. With the concurrence of the board, the proceedings therein shall be conducted as a small-claims case in accordance with this section.

(e) At any time before the commencement of the hearing, the board on its own motion or on the motion of a party to the appeal may order that the small-claims designation be removed and that the proceedings be transferred to the formal procedure under section 7. In addition, at any time before a decision is entered, the board shall discontinue further proceedings under this section if it finds (1) that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the amount of tax placed in dispute exceeds the applicable jurisdictional amount as described in subsection (a), and (2) that the amount of the excess is large enough to justify granting the request. The commissioner may also request that a matter be removed from the small claims procedure if: (i) there is a recurring issue of law and the impact of the issue on similarly situated taxpayers carries an aggregate value of over $250,000; or (ii) the board determines that the issue to be addressed is not suitable for small claims resolution due to its complexity, unique nature or other compelling reason as determined by the board in good faith. Upon removal or discontinuance, proceedings in the case shall be transferred to the formal docket and conducted under the formal procedure provided by said section 7. The date on which the board received the appellant's initial petition shall be considered the date of filing for the subsequent appeal under the formal procedure. The board shall allow sufficient time for the parties to modify their small claims submissions as needed to comply with the documentary requirements of the formal procedure and the waiver of the right of appeal shall be void. If the small-claims designation is not removed and proceedings under this section are not discontinued, the small-claims procedure shall be deemed to have been accepted and all right of appeal waived by both parties.

(f) The board shall make a decision in each case heard by it under the small-claims procedure, giving a brief written summary of the reasons therefor. No decision shall grant an abatement of tax exceeding the amount of tax placed in dispute within the limits prescribed in subsection (a). Where the amount of tax which the commissioner has refused to abate exceeds the limits imposed by subsection (a), the appellant may nevertheless elect the small-claims procedure; provided, however, that such election shall, unless the small-claims procedure is discontinued pursuant to subsection (e), foreclose all rights to an abatement of any amount of tax in excess of such limits and all interest, penalties, or additions to tax imposed by chapter 62C related to such excess.

(g) A decision entered in any case in which the proceedings are conducted under this section shall not be reviewed in any court and shall not be treated as precedent for any other case.