Motor Vehicle Excise

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What is motor vehicle excise?
Chapter 60A of Massachusetts General Laws imposes an excise on the privilege of registering a motor vehicle or a trailer in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The excise is levied annually in lieu of a tangible personal property tax. Non-registered vehicles, however, remain subject to taxation as personal property.

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.



Where does billing data come from?
The Registry of Motor Vehicles prepares data for excise bills according to the information on the motor vehicle registration and sends it to city or town assessors. Cities and towns then prepare bills based on excise data sent by the Registry in conformity with Department of Revenue requirements.



How is the excise determined?
Valuation figures are the manufacturers' list prices for vehicles in their year of manufacture. Present market value, price paid, or condition are not considered for excise tax purposes. The excise tax law (M.G.L. c.60A, s.1) establishes its own formula for valuation for state tax purposes whereby only the manufacturer's list price and the age of the motor vehicle are considered. Various percentages of the manufacturer's list price are applied. The percentages are as follows:

  • In the year preceding the designated year of manufacture (brand new car released before model year) - 50%
  • In the designated 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%


How is the excise tax calculated?
Once the value of the vehicle is determined, an excise at the rate of $25.00 per thousand is assessed. Excise tax is assessed annually, on a calendar year basis, by the assessors of the city or town in which the vehicle is garaged.

If the motor vehicle is registered after January 31, it is taxed for the period extending from the first day of the month in which it is registered to the end of the calendar year. For example, if a vehicle is registered on April 30, it will be taxable as of April 1, for the nine months of the year (April through December) and the excise due, therefore, will be 9/12 of the full excise. In no event shall the excise be assessed for less than $5.00, nor shall an abatement or refund under Section 1 of Chapter 60A reduce an excise to less than $5.00.


Who collects the motor vehicle excise?
Local tax collectors are responsible for collecting the motor vehicle and trailer excise. Generally, tax collectors and deputy tax collectors do not accept partial payment of an Excise bill. Taxpayers should be prepared to pay the full amount due. There are no special considerations for financial hardship.


When is payment due?
Payment of the motor vehicle excise is due within 30 days from the date the excise bill is issued (not mailed).

NOTE: A person who does not receive a bill is still liable for the excise plus any interest charges accrued. Therefore, it is important to keep the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and the United States Postal Service informed of a current name and address so that excise bills can be delivered promptly. Vehicle owners who do not receive an excise tax bill should contact the Office of the Treasurer/Collector at (617) 796-1330.



What happens if my payment is late?
If the bill remains unpaid and outstanding more than thirty (30) days after its issue date, it will continue to accrue interest and other charges and fees for which you will be responsible. Your driver's license and/or vehicle registration will also be submitted to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles for non-renewal action. For more information please visit the Frequently Asked Questions of the Office of the Treasurer/Collector.



Can I get motor vehicle excise abatement?
Contact the Assessors office at (617) 796-1160 for an application for abatement OR you can fill in and print out a Motor Vehicle Abatement Application Form. Follow the directions on the form and send it to the Assessors Office at 1000 Commonwealth Ave, Newton Centre, MA 02459 or e-mail to assessing@newtonma.gov.  

NOTE: on unpaid excise tax bills, an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted.



What are the requirements for abatements?
The Assessors office must receive abatement applications within 3 years after the excise is due OR within one year after the excise is paid.

Example: Assume that an excise tax bill is due on February 25, 2008. The abatement deadline would be February 25, 2011, OR one year after the payment of the bill, whichever is later.

Under what circumstances might motor vehicle excise abatement be warranted?

Abatement applications can be filed if:

  • the owner believes the assessment is incorrect, or
  • if the vehicle was traded, or
  • if the vehicle was stolen, or
  • if the vehicle was sold during the year in which it is being taxed and the registration was properly cancelled, or
  • if the owner moved from the City of Newton to another city or town, before January 1
  • if the owner moved to another state and registered the vehicle and cancelled the registration in Massachusetts, or
  • if the registration is cancelled, it is most important to return the plate(s) to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and to obtain a return plate receipt.
When an abatement is granted, excise bills are prorated by the month, thus the owner is responsible for the excise accrued through the month in which the car was last registered to him/her.



What if I've moved out of Newton?
If you move within Massachusetts and have not paid an excise tax for the current year, you should:

  1. Pay the motor vehicle excise to the city or town in which the vehicle was registered on January 1.
The excise for any particular year is due to the municipality in which the vehicle was registered on January 1 of that year. In the case of any person who moves during any particular registration year, the excise will be due to the city or town where the vehicle was registered on January 1 of that calendar year.



What if I sold my car?

If an excise bill is received for a vehicle or trailer that has been sold, the seller must:

  1. Return the plate(s) to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and obtain a return plate receipt.
  2. File an application with the Assessors office for abatement together with the following:
    • return plate receipt AND
    • the bill of sale OR transfer letter
Contact the Assessors office at (617) 796-1160 for an application for abatement OR you can fill in and print out a Motor Vehicle Abatement Application Form. Follow the directions on the form and send it to the Assessors office at 1000 Commonwealth Ave, Newton Centre, Ma 02459 or e-mail to assessing@newtonma.gov.
 
The Assessors office can then adjust the bill to reflect the ownership for only part of the year, and grant the proper abatement. The bill is prorated back to the last day of the month in which the vehicle was owned and the excise bill on the new vehicle will be prorated as of the date the new vehicle was registered. In no event shall the excise abatement be for less than $5.00, nor shall an abatement or refund under Section 1 of Chapter 60A reduce an excise tax to less than $5.00.
NOTE: It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored. On unpaid excise tax bills, an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted.



What if I traded my car?
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, you should:

  1. Pay the bill and file an application for abatement with the Assessors office.
  2. If the license plates were transfered to the new vehicle provide a copy of the New Registration Form AND the Purchase Agreement citing the vehicle as Trade-in.
OR

  1. If the license plates were returned to the Massachusetts RMV provide a copy of the Plate Return Receipt AND the Purchase Agreement citing the vehicle as Trade-in.
  2. Provide a copy of your completed application for abatement along with all supporting documentation to the Assessors office.
Contact the Assessors office at (617) 796-1160 for an application for abatement OR you can fill in and print out a Motor Vehicle Abatement Application Form. Follow the directions on the form and send it to the Assessors office at 1000 Commonwealth Ave, Newton Centre, Ma 02459 or e-mail to assessing@newtonma.gov.
 
The Assessors office can then adjust the bill to reflect the ownership for only part of the year, and grant the proper abatement. The bill is prorated back to the last day of the month in which the vehicle was owned and the excise bill on the new vehicle will be prorated as of the date the new vehicle was registered. In no event shall the excise abatement be for less than $5.00, nor shall an abatement or refund under Section 1 of Chapter 60A reduce an excise tax to less than $5.00.
NOTE: It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored. On unpaid excise tax bills, an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted.



What if my car is stolen?
If the vehicle is stolen and not recovered within 30 days, the owner will be entitled to an abatement if he/she provide the Assessors office with a copy of the following documentation:

  • Insurance Company Settlement Letter AND
  • C-19 form (Affidavit of Lost or Stolen Plates) from the Registry of Motor Vehicles OR New Registration if plate transferred
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.

Contact the Assessors office at (617) 796-1160 for an application for abatement OR you can fill in and print out a Motor Vehicle Abatement Application Form. Follow the directions on the form and send it to the Assessors office at 1000 Commonwealth Ave, Newton Centre, Ma 02459 or e-mail to assessing@newtonma.gov.
 
The Assessors office can then adjust the bill to reflect the ownership for only part of the year, and grant the proper abatement. The bill is prorated back to the last day of the month in which the vehicle was owned and the excise bill on the new vehicle will be prorated as of the date the new vehicle was registered. In no event shall the excise abatement be for less than $5.00, nor shall an abatement or refund under Section 1 of Chapter 60A reduce an excise tax to less than $5.00.
NOTE: It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored. On unpaid excise tax bills, an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted.



Am I eligible for any exemptions?
Chapter 60A, Section 1 of the Massachusetts General Laws provides excise tax exemptions for vehicles owned by certain disabled individuals and veterans, ex-prisoners of war and their surviving spouses and certain charitable organizations. Please contact the Assessors office at (617) 796-1160 for further details on eligibility.



What if I've moved out of Massachusetts?
If a motor vehicle owner moves out of Massachusetts and has not paid an excise tax for the current year, he/she should:

  1. File an application with the Assessors office for abatement together with the following:
    • Registration form from the new State or Country, AND
    • Plate Return Receipt from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles
Contact the Assessors office at (617) 796-1160 for an application for abatement OR you can fill in and print out a Motor Vehicle Abatement Application Form. Follow the directions on the form and send it to the Assessors office at 1000 Commonwealth Ave, Newton Centre, Ma 02459 or e-mail to assessing@newtonma.gov.
 
The Assessors office can then adjust the bill to reflect only the part of the year the vehicle was registered in the state, and grant the proper abatement. The bill is prorated back to the last day of the month in which the vehicle was registered in the state of Massachusetts. In no event shall the excise abatement be for less than $5.00, nor shall an abatement or refund under Section 1 of Chapter 60A reduce an excise tax to less than $5.00.
NOTE: It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle that is no longer registered in the state of Massachusetts should not be ignored. On unpaid excise tax bills, an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted.



What if my car is totaled?
If the vehicle is totaled the owner may be entitled to an abatement if he/she provides the Assessors office with a copy of the following documentation:

  • Insurance Company documentation stating the vehicle is a total loss and showing the date of loss AND
  • Plate Return Receipt from the Registry of Motor Vehicles OR New Registration if plate was transferred AND
  • A completed application for a motor vehicle excise tax abatement.
Contact the Assessors office at (617) 796-1160 for an application for abatement OR you can fill in and print out a Motor Vehicle Abatement Application Form. Follow the directions on the form and send it to the Assessors office at 1000 Commonwealth Ave, Newton Centre, Ma 02459 or e-mail to assessing@newtonma.gov.
 
The Assessors office can then adjust the bill to reflect the ownership for only part of the year, and grant the proper abatement. The bill is prorated back to the last day of the month in which the vehicle was owned and the excise bill on the new vehicle will be prorated as of the date the new vehicle was registered. In no event shall the excise abatement be for less than $5.00, nor shall an abatement or refund under Section 1 of Chapter 60A reduce an excise tax to less than $5.00.
NOTE: It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored. On unpaid excise tax bills, an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted.



How do I change my address for my Excise Tax?
Change of addresses for Excise Tax are done through the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. When you change the address for your vehicle registration plates, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will send that information to our office and our files will be changed.

You can find the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles change of address form here:
http://www.mass.gov/rmv/forms/10094.pdf  

Instructions on how to change your address on line or by phone are at the top left hand side of the form.