What is Excise Tax?
Under MGL Chapter 60A, all Massachusetts residents who own and register a motor vehicle must annually pay a motor vehicle excise. 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.
When you register a motor vehicle it is recorded with the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).
The RMV sends the information to the city or town Assessor’s office.
Excise bills are prepared by the Registry of Motor Vehicles according to the information on the motor vehicle registration. They are sent to city or town assessors who commit them to the local tax collectors for distribution and collection of payment.
Every motor vehicle owner must pay an excise tax based on valuation of at least ten percent of the manufacturer’s list price; thus, owners of vehicles older than five years should have a fixed excise tax bill for succeeding years of ownership. Even though an owner may have applied for an abatement that may reduce an excise tax bill, no excise shall be less than $5.
Excises are prorated on a monthly basis. If a motor vehicle is registered after the beginning of any calendar year, no excise will be imposed for those months, if any, which have fully elapsed before the vehicle is registered. If a vehicle is registered for any part of a month, however, the excise will be due for all of that month. The annual excise due on a car registered after January 1 will be reduced, therefore, by one twelfth of the full year’s excise for every month prior to the one in which the vehicle was registered.
Local tax collectors are responsible for collecting the motor vehicle and trailer excise. Collectors may appoint deputy tax collectors or may enter into agreements with collection agencies to assist them in the collection of delinquent accounts. Money collected on all bills, excluding deputy tax collectors’ fees, is put into the municipal treasury.
Payment of the motor vehicle excise is due 30 days from the date the excise bill is issued (not mailed, as is popularly believed). According to Chapter 60A, section 2 of the Massachusetts General Laws, “Failure to receive notice shall not affect the validity of the excise”. 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 Registry, local assessors, and the post office informed of a current name and address so that excise bills can be delivered promptly. All owners of motor vehicles must pay an excise tax; therefore, it is the responsibility of the owner to contact the local assessor if he/she has not received a bill.
Penalties for Non-Payment
If an excise tax is not paid within 30 days from the issue date: $5.00 demand and interest will accrue on the overdue bill at an annual rate of 12 percent from the day after the due date.
If the demand is not answered within 14 days: $10.00 Warrant Fee from Tax Collector and $12.00 Deputy Tax Collector fee.
If there is still no response, a final service warrant will be delivered or exhibited to the taxpayer at his/her residence or workplace, at a fee of $17. All interest and penalties should be clearly stated on the bill.
Non-Renewal of Registration and Driver’s License
Cities and Towns must issue a final notice to the taxpayer stating that they plan to ask the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to prohibit renewal of his/her registration until the excise bill is settled. If the notice goes unanswered, such a request will be made. The Registrar may then prevent renewal of the vehicle registration along with the owner’s driver’s license until receiving notice that the bill has been paid.
If a taxpayer finds him/herself in this situation and has been refused renewal of a registration or license, he/she may remedy the matter by making full payment on the bill, including all fees and penalties, which will include a $20 release fee. Once the bill has been paid, the Deputy Collector will release the hold with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. At this point he or she can reregister the vehicle.
For more information or clarification, visit the MA Department of Revenue’s website..
Abatements & Exemptions
Contact the Assessor’s Office 978-772-8211.
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.
Any further questions or concerns can be addressed to:
Barbara Tierney, CMMT
1 Main Street
Ayer, MA 01432