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Personal property tax

Movable, physical property is subject to the personal property tax, but there are exceptions.

“Tangible” — or physical — property that you can move easily is personal property. All tangible personal property is assessed in the city or town where it is located.

If the property has a temporary location as of January 1, it’s assessed at the owner’s place of business. Tangible personal property includes:

  • chairs used by a barbershop
  • furniture in a dentist’s office, and
  • poles owned by a utility company.

What personal property is exempt?

Professional tools used by plumbers, carpenters, mechanics, and workers in other trades are exempt. In legal terms, these are called “tools of the trade.”

Tools used by other professionals, like dentists and doctors, are not exempt.


In general, all tangible property is subject to a personal property tax unless it’s specifically exempted. Tangible property that faces another local tax is exempt from the personal property tax. A good example is excise taxes.

These types of personal property are all subject to an excise tax, so there isn’t a personal property tax:

  • motor vehicles and trailers
  • ships and boats, and
  • farm animals and equipment.

All intangible property is exempt from the personal property tax. This includes stocks, bonds, cash, mortgages, and other evidence of property ownership.

Personal property owned by incorporated entities

“Machinery used in the conduct of business” is personal property. Basically, it’s property used for customers. All incorporated entities face a personal property tax for:

  • poles, wires, and pipes
  • underground conduits, and
  • machinery used to manufacture, supply, or distribute water.

Machinery used by manufacturers doesn’t face a personal property tax. Machinery that you don’t have to pay a personal property tax for includes:

  • property used for internal buying, selling, accounting, or administrative functions
  • inventory or stock in trade
  • property used to launder clothes and dry clean, and
  • refrigerators and air conditioners.

Filing the state tax form 2/form of list

If you own a business in Boston, you need to give us a list of the personal property at your business. You need to submit a State Tax Form 2/Form of List by March 1.

You don’t need to put down the value of your personal property. We can determine that using reference tables. Learn how to file your personal property taxes.

It is important to file annually

If you don’t file the form, an assessor will estimate your personal property based on similar businesses. We may deny an application for abatement if you don’t give us the list.

If our assessment is 50 percent more than what you would have been assessed had you submitted the list on time, you can only file for an abatement for the amount over 50 percent.

We can audit personal books, papers, records, and other data to find out if your list is accurate. We can assess taxes on unreported personal property that we find in an audit. We can assess taxes within three years and six months of the date your return was due or filed.


Call the Assessing Department’s Personal Property Unit at 617-635-1165 or email


We may ask you to complete an Information Requisition Form to help us determine the fair cash value of your personal property.

If you don’t give us the information we ask for in the form within 30 days of filing, we will deny your application. If you don’t fill out the form, you may also lose your right to appeal to the Appellate Tax Board.

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