Motor Vehicle FAQs
- What is the motor vehicle and trailer excise?
An excise is a tax upon an event or privilege. A motor vehicle and trailer excise is in lieu of a tangible personal property tax and is levied for the privilege of registration.
M.G.L. Ch. 60A, which is the statutory basis for the excise, uses the motor vehicle itself as a means to measure this privilege. Revenue derived from the excise can be used by cities and towns for any lawful purpose.
For more detailed information regarding the definition of a "motor vehicle", the period of assessment, and certain registration requirements, see: General Motor Vehicle Excise Information (PDF).
- What valuation is used for motor vehicle excise bills?
The excise is based on the value of the motor vehicle as determined by the Commissioner of Revenue upon certain percentages of the manufacturer's list price (MSRP) in the year of manufacture.
The excise valuation is not based on the actual purchase price or "book value" of the vehicle. The percentages set forth in the statutory depreciation schedule that are applied to the manufacturer's list price are as follows:
- In the year preceding the designated year of manufacture: 50%
- In the year of manufacture: 90%
- In the second year: 60%
- In the third year: 40%
- In the fourth year: 25%
- In the fifth and succeeding years: 10%
For examples and more information about the computation of a motor vehicle excise, see: Calculation of the Excise (PDF).
- What is the rate of excise and where is it assessed?
An excise in the amount of $25 per thousand is assessed upon the value of the vehicle as determined in accordance with the depreciation schedule.
Prior to 1981, the rate was $66 per thousand. With the passage of Proposition 2 1/2 the rate was set at $25 per thousand.
The excise is levied for a full calendar year and is assessed by the community where the motor vehicle is customarily garaged. In those instances where vehicles are registered in the Commonwealth but garaged outside of Massachusetts, the Commissioner of Revenue assesses the excise which is paid into the State treasury. M.G.L. Ch. 60A Sec. 1 provides that the owner of any motor vehicle registered for less than a full calendar year will be obligated to pay an excise based on the entire month when the vehicle was registered, as well as the remaining months of the year. For example, a vehicle registered on April 9th will be assessed an excise for the months of April through December.
- Are there any exemptions from the motor vehicle excise?
An exemption may be granted if the motor vehicle is owned and registered by the following entities:
- The Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions
- Charitable corporations or charitable trusts and religious organizations whose personal property is exempt under M.G.L. Ch. 59 Sec. 5 Cl. 3 and Cl. 10 respectively
- Lessors engaged in the business of leasing motor vehicles, if the vehicle is leased for a full calendar year to a charitable organization, other than a degree-granting or diploma-awarding institution
- Vehicles operated with special plates and owned or controlled by manufacturers, farmers or dealers (Section 5 plates)
- Vehicles owned and registered by former prisoners of war or their surviving spouses, if the local option statute is adopted by the community
- Handicapped veterans with a wartime service connected disability as determined by Veterans Affairs who have lost, or lost the permanent use of, one or both feet, one or both hands, or the sight of one or both eyes
- Handicapped non-veterans who have lost, or lost the permanent use of, both legs or both arms or the sight of both eyes; (the exemption for handicapped veterans and non-veterans applies to not more than one motor vehicle owned and registered for the personal non-commercial use of such veteran or person)
The abatement application form is used to apply for an exemption, and likewise must be filed with the assessors within 3 years after the date the excise was due, or 1 year after the excise was paid, whichever is later. Supporting documentation is required when submitting the abatement application.
- For what reasons may I get an abatement of a motor vehicle excise?
A taxpayer may file an abatement application and receive an abatement for any of the following reasons:
- Sale of the vehicle and cancellation of the registration or the trade of the subject vehicle for another
- Transfer of the registrant and the vehicle to another state with proof of registration in that state and cancellation of the Massachusetts registration
- Overvaluation of the vehicle
- Subsequent registration of the same vehicle in the same year by the same person (e.g., vehicle is later registered with a Vanity Plate)
- Theft of the vehicle, if the local police authorities are notified within 48 hours of the discovery of the theft and the certificate of registration is surrendered not less than thirty days after the theft and the registrant has received a certificate of cancellation of registration signed by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles or his authorized agent verifying that the subject vehicle was stolen
Applications for abatement must be filed with the local board of assessors within 3 years after the date the excise was due, or 1 year after the excise was paid, whichever is later. If the taxpayer's application for abatement is denied, there can be an appeal to the Appellate Tax Board (ATB).
- What are the penalties for nonpayment of the excise?
An excise must be paid within 30 days of the issuance of the bill.
Any unpaid bill accrues interest at a rate of 12% per annum from the 31st day to the date of payment. The following steps for collection are set forth in M.G.L. Ch. 60A Sec. 2A:
- The collector will send a demand which must be made more than one day after such excise becomes due. The demand fee is $15.
- If payment is not made within 14 days of the demand, the collector will issue a warrant to collect to a deputy collector, the charge for which is $10. The deputy collector will then send a notice of his warrant to the taxpayer.
- Upon failure to pay within 30 days of the notice of warrant, the deputy collector will make a service of warrant.
If the excise continues to be outstanding, the deputy collector or collector notifies the Registrar of Motor Vehicles within a two year period after the initial excise tax was issued.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles will then mark or place in non-renewal status the license and registration of the taxpayer.
- I cancelled my insurance but I am still receiving a tax bill. Why?
Canceling the insurance policy on a motor vehicle does not affect a contemporaneous cancellation of the registration on that vehicle. The registrant must deal directly with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, either in person, by phone or by mail.
To cancel the registration on a particular vehicle, a registrant should return the license plates to the Registry and receive a Plate Return Receipt. A registrant who does not have possession of those plates should obtain from the Registry a Form C19, "Lost Plate Affidavit for Cancellation of Registration."
Obtaining either a Plate Return Receipt or a processed Form C19 will effectuate a cancellation of the registration on that vehicle. An insurer, in order to cancel or revoke an insurance policy on a motor vehicle, must give electronic notice to the Registry. If the Registry does not receive a new certificate of insurance covering the same vehicle within the following 23 days, it will mail notice to the registrant that unless a new certificate is provided within the ensuing 10 days, the registration on that motor vehicle will be revoked.
- What are the regulations regarding vehicles owned and registered by handicapped persons?
- Handicapped veterans:
- To qualify as a veteran, a person must have been honorably discharged from the armed services and have served in either World War I, World II, the Korean Emergency, the Vietnamese War, the Lebanese Peace Keeping Force, the Panamanian Intervention Force or the Persian Gulf.
- In addition, the person must, by reason of such service, have suffered either (a) an actual loss of or a permanent and complete loss of use of, one or both feet or one or both hands or (b) a permanent vision impairment, of the magnitude set out in Ch. 60A §1, of one or both eyes. As used in this statute, loss of use is the constructive equivalent of an actual loss. No magnitude of loss which is less than total loss of use qualifies an individual for exemption.
- This loss must be documented by the records of the Veterans Administration.
- This exemption is restricted for each handicapped veteran to one vehicle at a time, owned and registered by the veteran for personal, non-business use. It does not preclude a qualifying person's receiving an abatement on a second vehicle in a calendar year so long as he/she: a) conveys title to the first vehicle upon which he/she already received an excise abatement, and b) transfers the registration from the first vehicle to the second or cancels the registration on the first vehicle and obtains a new registration on the second.
- A veteran who owns more than one vehicle has the right to choose the vehicle upon which to obtain an exemption.
- A handicapped veteran who owns a vehicle jointly with his/her spouse or with some other person(s) satisfies the ownership requisite for a full exemption. See the Appellate Tax Board decision in Brunette v. Assessors of Southampton, Docket Number F231437, issued October 11, 1966.
- Handicapped non-veterans:
- This exemption is available to a person who has suffered either (a) an actual loss of or a permanent and complete loss of use of both legs or both arms (b) a permanent vision impairment of both eyes of the magnitude set out in Ch. 60A §1. As with the exemption for handicapped veterans, loss of use is the constructive equivalent of an actual loss.
- A board of assessors may require an applicant for this exemption to provide a certification by a physician of the existence of the requisite loss.
- This exemption is restricted for each handicapped person to one vehicle at a time, owned and registered by the person for personal, non-business use. It does not preclude a qualifying person's receiving an abatement on a second vehicle in a calendar year so long as he/she: a) conveys title to the first vehicle upon which he/she already received an excise abatement, and b) transfers the registration from the first vehicle to the second or cancels the registration on the first vehicle and obtains a new registration on the second.
- A person who owns more than one vehicle has the right to choose the vehicle upon which to obtain an exemption.
- A handicapped person who owns a vehicle jointly with his/her spouse or with some other person(s) satisfies the ownership requisite for a full exemption. See the Appellate Tax Board decision in Brunette v. Assessors of Southampton, Docket Number F231437, issued October 11, 1966.
- Handicap Plates:
- A person need not have a handicap plate to be eligible for this exemption.
- Alternatively, one who has a handicap plate is not per se entitled to an exemption. The requisite loss must still be demonstrated.
- Handicapped veterans:
Excise Important Reminder
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.
Please note that this summary serves as a guide and is not intended to answer every question or address every issue.
Please feel free to call the Assessors office at 508-747-1620, ext. 10296.