Motor Vehicle Excise Tax
Under Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 60A, all Massachusetts residents who own and register a motor vehicle must annually pay a motor vehicle excise tax. Also, under MGL Chapter 59, Section 2, it is important to note that every motor vehicle, whether registered or not, is subject to taxation, either as excise or personal property, for the privilege of road use, whether actual or future. The excise is levied by the city or town where the vehicle is principally garaged and the revenues become part of the local community treasury.
- If You've Moved
- If Your Vehicle is Sold
- If Your Vehicle is Traded
- If Your Vehicle is Stolen
- If Your Vehicle is Leased
If a motor vehicle owner moves within Massachusetts and has not paid an excise tax for the current year, he/she should immediately notify the local assessor of his/her new address. The owner must pay the motor vehicle excise to the city or town in which he/she resided on January 1.
If the owner moved before the first of the year, he/she must pay the tax to the new community to which the owner moved. If the owner did not notify the Registry, the local assessor, and the post office that he/she moved before the first of the year, it may be necessary to file for an abatement with the former city or town which had sent the excise bill. Most cities or towns will dismiss the bill and reroute it to the new community once the owner furnishes proof that he/she had moved before the first of the year.
Moving Outside the State
If the owner of a vehicle moves out of Massachusetts and registers their vehicle in another state and cancels his/her Massachusetts registration or does not renew the Massachusetts registration, he/she can file an application for an abatement for that portion of the year after the month in which the motor vehicle was registered in the new state or in which the Massachusetts registration was cancelled, whichever is the later.
Lost Plate Receipt
A person who has moved out-of-state must cancel the registration in Massachusetts and obtain a "lost plate receipt" from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles in order to avoid problems with an excise tax abatement application. Please note a lost plate receipt is issued to those who turn over their Massachusetts license plates to another state’s department of motor vehicles for the purpose of registering their car in the other state.
If an excise bill is received for a vehicle or trailer which has been sold, the seller must return the plate(s) to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, get a return plate receipt, and file an application for abatement together with the return plate receipt and the bill of sale with the Board of Assessors. The bill will be adjusted to reflect the portion of the year when the vehicle was owned by the recipient of the bill.
It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored.
If an excise bill is received for a vehicle which was traded and which was not owned in the calendar year stated on the bill, it is recommended to pay the bill and then file an application for abatement with the Board of Assessors. The application must accompany a copy of the registration for the new vehicle indicating the date of transfer.
If an excise bill is received for a vehicle which was traded but which was owned for a portion of the calendar year stated on the bill, it is necessary to pay the bill and then provide a copy of the registration for the new vehicle which indicates the date of transfer together with an application for abatement to the Board of Assessors. The board can then adjust the bill to reflect the ownership for only part of the year, and grant the proper abatement. The bill on the trade-in vehicle is prorated back to the last day of the month prior to the one in which the vehicle’s registration was cancelled and the excise bill on the new vehicle will be prorated as of the beginning of the month in which the vehicle was registered.
If the vehicle is stolen and not recovered within 30 days, the owner will be entitled to an abatement if the theft of the vehicle was reported to the local police within 48 hours of discovery of the theft. After 30 days, the owner must surrender the certificate of registration and obtain a certificate from the Registry of Motor Vehicles indicating that he/she has done so. This certificate and the local police report of the theft should be presented to the Board of Assessors with an application for abatement.
The board will adjust the bill and grant an abatement for the remaining portion of the year. If the motor vehicle or trailer is subsequently recovered and re-registered, another excise bill will be issued for the remainder of the year. Falsely reporting the theft of a motor vehicle or trailer will result in severe penalties and a person may be charged up to three times the excise due on the vehicle for an entire year.
Leased cars are still subject to excise tax. However, whose obligation for payment is determined by any terms in the original leasing contract.
If not addressed, the driver should inquire of the leasing company. Normally, if the car is registered in the driver’s name, the registration creates an obligation and liability for payment of excise tax upon the driver, not the leasing company. Even if the car is registered in the leasing company’s name, however, there may be terms in the contract passing on any taxes, excise included, onto the driver, so it is best to check the contract.
For More Information
Questions about your motor vehicle excise should be directed to your local Board of Assessors. For more information, visit the following Massachusetts Department of Revenue website, or contact the office at 617-626-2300.
Remember that when you register a motor vehicle, a motor vehicle excise bill is generated and you are responsible for its payment. If you move within Massachusetts or out-of-state, if you sell or trade your motor vehicle, or if it is stolen, you need to make every effort to obtain the bill, to pay it, and then to apply for an abatement if you are eligible.
And lastly, to avoid not receiving an excise tax bill on time, please keep the Registry, your local tax assessor, and the post office aware of your current mailing address.