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January 24, 2006




CHELSEA - Governor Mitt Romney today declared 2005 a good year for taxpayers and urged everyone to file returns early to get their share of a variety of new tax breaks.


A greater personal exemption, expanded property tax relief for senior citizens, an energy efficiency credit and a home heating fuel deduction all add up to increased tax savings this year. The average refund is expected to grow to nearly $500 this year.


“Any year the government puts money back in taxpayers’ pockets is a great year,” Romney said. “Of course, next year will be even better if we can convince the Legislature to start rolling the tax rate back to 5 percent.”


With state revenues far exceeding projections for the second consecutive year, Romney said it is time for the Legislature to answer the call of the voters to lower the state income tax rate to 5 percent. He has proposed a phased cut – first to 5.15 percent in the budget he will file this week, and then to 5 percent the following year.


Romney was joined by Alan LeBovidge, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue, for today’s traditional kickoff of the tax-filing season at the Massachusetts Information Technology Center in Chelsea. DOR expects to process 3.3 million tax returns this year, with 70 percent of them resulting in refunds.


“We urge all taxpayers to file their returns electronically, either by phone or computer,” LeBovidge said. “We received roughly half of all returns this way last year, which reduced the mountains of paper we processed and cut the average refund turnaround time down to 3.2 days.”


The deadline for filing 2005 income tax returns is April 18.


Every taxpayer will benefit from an increase in the personal exemption, made possible by the Commonwealth’s improving economy. The exemption for an individual filer is now $3,575, $5,525 for the head of household filer, and $7,150 for joint filers.


Changes in the eligibility threshold for the Senior Circuit Breaker Credit will give more elderly taxpayers relief from rising property taxes. Taxpayers 65 or older who meet certain income requirements and live in homes valued at $600,000 (previously $452,000) or less can claim a break of up to $840 on their state income tax form.


Taxpayers who have made their homes more energy efficient can claim up to 30 percent of the cost of the improvements as a credit this year. New windows, insulation and fuel-efficient furnaces are among the projects that are eligible for the credit, which has a $600 limit.


Individual taxpayers who earn $50,000 or less and joint filers who earn less than $75,000 can claim a deduction of up to $800 for money spent on heating their homes. The heating fuel must have been purchased between November 1 and December 31, 2005. If a taxpayer does not use the full $800 this year, he or she can claim the balance next year for expenses incurred between January 1, 2006 and March 31, 2006.


Many taxpayers may benefit from this year’s update of the Internal Revenue Service Code. This change from the IRS Code of 1998 opens up a wide range of credits, exemptions and deductions previously unavailable to Massachusetts taxpayers.


Some taxpayers, especially those with uncomplicated finances, can still choose to file state returns using Telefile. The 8-minute phone call is the easiest way to claim a tax refund. To check eligibility requirements, call (617) 660-2005 or (413) 827-7100.


Taxpayers who prepare their own returns can purchase software at a retail store or visit DOR’s website at www.mass.gov/dor to get links to commercial software for filing taxes. Many Massachusetts taxpayers will qualify for a free tax filing with a number of the software makers.


For more information or assistance, taxpayers can visit the DOR website at www.mass.gov/dor or call DOR at (617) 887-MDOR or toll-free at (800) 392-6089.

January 24, 2006


Calls for passage of GPS legislation that tracks violent abusers


PLYMOUTH – Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey today announced the Governor’s upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2007 will invest more than $32 million for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention programs. The proposed funding includes an additional $1.8 million, an increase of 5.8 percent, to expand critical services such as medical and legal counseling for victims.


“Victims of violent crimes face a horrific ordeal and the recovery from the traumatic experience can last a lifetime. Our commitment to investing in new programs and expanded services will help victims cope with their assault and see justice served,” said Healey.


The spending plan includes more than $1.2 million in new funding for counseling and referral services for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. To help victims recover from the trauma of an assault, the budget allocates $500,000 for additional counselors to accompany them to the hospital. The proposal funds programs to provide therapy for victims, including those who are young, immigrant, or do not speak English.


For children who are physically or sexually assaulted, the budget allocates $300,000 for child advocacy centers which create a secure environment where victims can receive treatment and counseling. As Chair of the Governor’s Commission on Sexual and Domestic Violence, Healey established the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program (SANE) for children under 12 to help young victims of sexual and physical abuse. The SANE nurses, specially trained to deal with the emotional and physical state of victims, collect evidence that may be used to prosecute the assailant.


To guide victims of domestic violence through the judicial system, Healey said $300,000 would be invested to triple the number of immigration attorneys available to victims. The funds would also help low-income victims in court cases and put more money towards SAFEPLAN, which provides court advocates for victims. Last year, the program served 20,000 victims and the expansion will serve many more.


“We are grateful to Governor Romney and Lieutenant Governor Healey for providing additional support that will enable more people to avail themselves of these lifesaving services,” said Nancy L. Scannell, Director of Government Affairs for Jane Doe Inc., Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.


Scannell added, “The economic downturn has taken its toll on all kinds of victims services and we are heartened by the commitment the Administration has shown to continue these programs during difficult times.”


Healey also urged the Legislature to act on a bill she filed nearly one year ago that would use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to protect victims of domestic violence from their abusers. The first-in-the-nation legislation requires abusers who violate their restraining orders to wear a GPS monitoring device as a condition of their probation.


Far too often victims of domestic violence have to rearrange their lives in order to feel safe because restraining orders are not enforced or obeyed. Healey said the legislation gives victims of domestic violence more freedom to live without fear of retaliation from their abusers and helps provide them the safety that they deserve.


“We should not be requiring victims of domestic violence to alter their lives to accommodate the freedom of their abusers,” added Healey.


The GPS technology will alert the victim and law enforcement officials if the offender enters certain restricted areas, or victim safety zones, including the victim’s home, workplace and the school that a victim’s child attends. If the abuser enters the GPS exclusion zones – which are pre-determined by the court – probation will be revoked and the defendant will be fined or re-incarcerated.


If they have the means to pay, offenders will also be financially responsible for expenses regarding the GPS bracelet, which is estimated to cost $10 per person each day.

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