You can reduce the excise you have paid by filing an abatement application. There are two applications to choose from:
You must file applications for abatement with your local board of assessors within:
- 3 years after the excise's due date, or
- 1 year after the excise was paid
Whichever is later. Filing an application does not mean that collecting the excise has stopped.
Assessors have 3 months from the date they receive an abatement application to grant or deny an abatement. You can extend the 3 month action period by giving your written consent. The application is considered denied if assessors do not act within the 3 month (or extended) action period.
Even if you did not timely file an abatement application, assessors can still grant you an abatement, but only if the excise is still outstanding. Actions on late applications is solely within the assessors' discretion, which means that you can't appeal to any local or state board, agency, or official. If the assessors decline to grant you one, you must pay the excise in full and apply for abatement by right within 1 year of the payment date.
If your application is denied, you can appeal to the county commissioners, or the Appellate Tax Board (ATB). You must file the appeal within 3 months of the date the assessors granted or denied the abatement, or the date the application was deemed denied if they did not act on it.
Valid reasons for an abatement
You may receive an abatement for any of the following:
- Moved outside of Massachusetts - During the same calendar year as the excise, you:
- Moved to another state or country
- Registered the vehicle there, and
- Canceled or did not renew the Massachusetts registration
Assessors may treat registration in the new state or country as a cancellation of the Massachusetts registration, especially where you must surrender Massachusetts plates to register. In that case, the assessors should abate any excise assessed for the following year as well. If the Massachusetts registration continues for another calendar year, you should cancel the registration to avoid being taxed further.
- Moved from billing city or town - You:
- Moved to another city or town within Massachusetts before January 1 of the excise calendar year, and
- Notified the RMV of your address change and vehicle’s place of garaging by January 1 of the excise calendar year, or within 30 days of the move if later.
Assessors must abate the whole excise within 60 days of the abatement, and notify the assessors of the city or town where the excise should have been assessed. The assessors of that city or town must then recommit the excise to the collector so that you're billed for the year. You do not have a right to abatements if you move to another Massachusetts city or town during the same calendar year as the excise.
- Vehicle was overvalued - The excise was based on more than the appropriate percentage (see "Calculating the Excise"). In this case, assessors should abate the excise to the correct amount and notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to prevent incorrect excises from being assessed in the future.
You do not have a right to abatements due to value based on the actual purchase prices or the current vehicle conditions. The excise is not based on the actual purchase price or “book value” of the vehicle.
- 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.
- Transferred vehicle ownership - During the same calendar year as the excise, you:
- Transferred title to the vehicle, due to sale, trade, gift, repossession, Lemon Law return, insurance settlement or other disposition, and
- Cancelled or transferred registration of the vehicle to another vehicle
You do not have a right to abatements if you keep ownership of your vehicles after canceling or transferring the registrations.
- Re-registered the vehicle – The same vehicle was registered in the same year by the same person (e.g., you later register the vehicle with a vanity plate). During the same calendar year as the excise, the same taxpayer:
- Canceled the vehicle registration
- Retained ownership of the vehicle, and
- Re-registered the vehicle later in the year
The taxpayer is eligible for abatement of the entire excise assessed upon re-registering the vehicle.
The abatement amount granted to taxpayers who have:
- Moved out of Massachusetts
- Transferred vehicle ownership, or
- Had their vehicles stolen
Is based on the number of months remaining in the calendar year after the month the last eligibility requirement for the abatement takes place.
For example, if you move to another state in July, and register the vehicle and cancel the Massachusetts registration in August, you have an abatement for September through December (4 months out of 12), or a third of the excise.
If you've transferred both the ownership and registration in the same month, the abatement is for the month you transferred and the months remaining in the calendar year. For example, you sell a motor vehicle in July and also cancel the registration on that vehicle the same month. You're granted an abatement for August through December (5/12 of the excise). If you transferred the registration to another vehicle instead of canceling the registration, you're granted an abatement for July through December (6/12 of the excise).
Assessors cannot grant an abatement that is less than $5 or results in a motor vehicle excise of less than $5, unless the entire excise is abated.
If the abatement is ordered by the county commissioners or ATB, you're entitled to interest at 6% on the amount refunded, from the date the excise was overpaid. No interest is owed on refunds of paid excises when assessors grant an abatement.