Guide Motor Vehicle Excise

When you register your motor vehicle or trailer, you have to pay a motor vehicle and trailer excise. Get the ins and outs on paying the motor vehicle excise tax to your local city or town hall.

Introduction

If you own a registered motor vehicle, you have to pay a tax, called a motor vehicle and trailer excise, each year. When you get your motor vehicle excise bill, you will also get instructions on how to pay it.

Every motor vehicle and trailer registered in Massachusetts is subject to the motor vehicle excise unless exempted.

Definition of "motor vehicle"

“Motor vehicles” are defined as “all vehicles constructed and designed for propulsion by power other than muscular power including such vehicles when pulled or towed by another motor vehicle,” excluding:

  • Trains and trolleys, including trackless trolleys
  • Vehicles used for purposes other than transporting property and are incapable of being driven at a speed more than 12 miles per hour and
    • Used exclusively for building, repairing and maintaining highways, or
    • Designed especially for use elsewhere than on the traveled part of ways.
  • Wheelchairs owned and operated by invalids and operated or guided by a person on foot
  • Motorized bicycles

Calculating the excise

$25 per $1,000 of value

The excise rate is $25 per $1,000 of your vehicle's value. It is charged for a full calendar year and billed by the community where the vehicle is usually garaged. If your vehicle is registered in Massachusetts but garaged outside of Massachusetts, the Commissioner of Revenue will bill the excise.

If you own any motor vehicle that has been registered for less than a full calendar year, you will pay the excise based on the entire month when you registered that vehicle, as well as for the remaining months of the year. For example, a vehicle registered on April 9th will be billed an excise for April through December.

The minimum motor vehicle excise is $5. If your calculated excise is less than $5, you will be taxed $5. 

Vehicle value

Your vehicle's value for excise purposes isn't the actual purchase price or "book value" of the vehicle. Instead, it's a percentage of the manufacturer's list price in the year of manufacture. The manufacturer’s list price for any vehicle is the price the manufacturer recommends as the selling price of that vehicle when new. 

Year you bought your vehicle Vehicle value (% of manufacturer's list price)
Year before designated year of manufacture 50%
Year of manufacture 90%
Second year 60%
Third year 40%
Fourth year 25%
Fifth year and onwards 10%

Exemptions

An exemption may be granted if the motor vehicle is owned and registered by any of the following:
 

  • 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
  • Manufacturers, farmers, or dealers and the vehicles operate with special plates (Section 5 plates)
  • Former prisoners of war or their surviving spouses, if the local option statute is adopted by the community
  • Handicapped veterans with a disability connected to wartime service (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 no more than 1 motor vehicle owned and registered for personal non-commercial use).

You can use the abatement application form to apply for an exemption. You must file it with the assessors within 3 years after the date the excise was due, or 1 year after the excise was paid, whichever is later.

Abatement

You can reduce the excise you have to pay by filing an abatement application, and may receive an abatement for any of the following reasons:

  • You sold the vehicle or traded it for another vehicle, and canceled registering it.
  • You and your vehicle transferred to another state canceled your Massachusetts registration, and you have proof of registration in that state and proof of canceling your Massachusetts vehicle registration.
  • Vehicle was overvalued.
  • The same vehicle was registered in the same year by the same person (e.g., you later register the vehicle with a vanity plate).
  • Your vehicle was stolen and:
    • You notify the local police authorities within 48 hours of discovering the theft,
    • You surrender your certificate of registration more than 30 days after the theft, and 
    • You received a certificate of cancellation of registration signed by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) or your authorized agent verifying that your vehicle was stolen.

You must file applications for abatement 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 your application is denied, you can appeal to the Appellate Tax Board (ATB).

Additional Resources

Penalties

You must pay the excise within 30 days of receiving the bill. Any unpaid bill accrues interest at a rate of 12% per year, from the 31st day to the payment date.

The penalties process includes the following steps:

  1. The collector will send a demand more than 1 day after the excise's due date. The demand fee is $5.
  2. If you don't pay the demand within 14 days, 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 your warrant to you, the charge for which is $12.
  3. If you fail to pay within 30 days of receiving the notice of your warrant, the deputy collector will visit you to serve the warrant, the charge for which is $17.
  4. If you still fail to pay the excise, the deputy collector or collector will notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) within a 2 year period after the initial excise tax was issued. The RMV will then mark your license and registration as unable to be renewed. The fee to remove the mark at the RMV is $20.

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