Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit

Certain seniors who own or rent residential property as their principal residence are eligible for a refundable tax credit. Find out if you qualify.

Page updated: September 25, 2020. 

What to know

As a senior citizen, you may be eligible to claim a refundable credit on your personal state income tax return. The Circuit Breaker tax credit is based on the actual real estate taxes paid on the Massachusetts residential property you own or rent and occupy as your principal residence.

The maximum credit amount for tax year 2020 is $1,150. If the credit you’re owed exceeds the amount of the total tax payable for the year, you’ll be refunded the additional amount of the credit without interest.


View the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit Video Tutorial.

Who is eligible

  • You must be a Massachusetts resident or part-year resident.
  • You must be 65 or older by January 1, 2021.
  • You must file a Massachusetts personal income tax return.
  • You must own or rent residential property in Massachusetts and occupy it as your primary residence.
  • For tax year 2020, your total Massachusetts income doesn’t exceed:
    • $61,000 for a single individual who is not the head of a household.
    • $76,000 for a head of household.
    • $92,000 for married couples filing a joint return.
  • If you are a homeowner, your Massachusetts property tax payments, together with half of your water and sewer expense, must exceed 10% of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year.
  • If you are a renter, 25% of your annual Massachusetts rent must exceed 10% of your total Massachusetts income for the tax year.

Who is not eligible

  • You are a nonresident. 
  • You are married and your status is married filing separately.
  • You are a dependent of another taxpayer.
  • You receive a federal and/or state rent subsidy or you rent from a tax-exempt entity.
  • For tax year 2020, the assessed value of principal residence exceeds $848,000.

How to apply

If you are eligible for the Circuit Breaker Credit, complete Schedule CB with your Massachusetts state income tax return.

If you qualify for the tax credit in a prior tax year but didn’t file Schedule CB with your original state income tax return, you should file an amended return with your Schedule CB. Be sure to fill in the Amended return oval on the return.

The Schedule CB must be completed within 3 years from the last day for filing the return, without regard to any extension of time to file.

For more details, please visit Apply for the Circuit Breaker tax credit.

Don’t make these common mistakes

If you live in a multi-family home

Be sure to claim only the portion of real estate taxes and water and sewer charges that apply to your portion of the property, rather than the entire bill.

If your property is more than one acre in size

You may claim the value of the land immediately surrounding your home, but the total cannot exceed one acre. Prorate the value of the land to include not more than one acre in your calculation. Since the taxpayer may only claim a proportional share of the real estate tax payments, including water and sewer use charges, which corresponds to the portion of the residence used and occupied as principal residence, the amount of taxes must be prorated to represent the portion claimed.

If your principal residence is held in trust

If your principal residence is owned by a grantor trust, and either you or your spouse is a trustee, then you would qualify as a homeowner.  If your principal residence is owned by a grantor trust, and you or your spouse are not Trustees, then renter rules are applied when determining the allowable credit. Renter rules also apply if the principal residence is owned by an irrevocable trust, regardless of whether you or your spouse is a trustee.

Additional Resources

Section 6: Credits

TIR 20-14: Annual Update of Real Estate Tax Credit for Certain Persons Age 65 and Older

Letter Ruling 82-34: Rent Deduction: Nursing Home

Letter Ruling 82-33: Rent Deduction: Home for the Elderly