All Massachusetts residents who own and register a motor vehicle must annually pay a motor vehicle excise. 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.
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.
An excise at the rate of $25 per one thousand dollars of valuation is levied on each motor vehicle. Information on the value of a motor vehicle is accessed electronically through a data bank complete with valuation figures. Different sources provide the valuation figures depending upon whether the motor vehicle is an automobile, a truck, a motorcycle, or a trailer. 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.
The formula is 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%
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 which may reduce an excise tax bill, no excise shall be less than $5.
Abatements can be filed if the owner believes the assessment is incorrect, 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, registered the vehicle in another state, and cancelled the registration in Massachusetts, or did not renew the registration in Massachusetts. 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.
The Town of Tewksbury will not mail out a new bill on granted abatements. When applying for an adjustment it is the applicant's responsibility to contact us for a new amount or include a self-addressed stamped envelope for return of adjusted bill after abatement is processed or contact the Assessor's office for an updated amount due.
Click here for Motor Vehicle Excise Tax Abatement form
If You've Moved
If the owner of a vehicle moves out of Massachusetts and registers his/her vehicle in another state and cancels his/her Massachusetts registration or does not renew the Massachusetts registration, he/she can file an application for an abatement for that portion of the year after the month in which the motor vehicle was registered in the new state or in which the Massachusetts registration was cancelled, whichever is the later. Please note that it is necessary for a person who has moved out-of-state to cancel the registration in MA and obtain a plate return receipt in order to avoid problems with an excise tax abatement application or future registration in the new state, unless the new state as a general policy confiscates the plates from the old state (MA, i.e.). In such a case, the owner is still required to cancel the registration from
MA, but no plate return receipt is required if proof of registration in the new state is presented.
If Your Motor Vehicle is Sold
If an excise bill is received for a vehicle or trailer which has been sold, the seller must return the plate(s) to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, get a return plate receipt, and file an application for abatement together with the return plate receipt and the bill of sale with the Board of Assessors. The bill will be adjusted to reflect the portion of the year when the vehicle was owned by the recipient of the bill.
It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored.
If Your Motor Vehicle is Traded
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, it is recommended to pay the bill and then file an application for abatement with the Board of Assessors. The application must accompany a copy of the registration for the new vehicle which indicates the date of transfer.
Excise Tax 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 your local assessor for further details on eligibility.
*For ex-prisoners of war and their surviving spouses, the law allowing the exemption for the motor vehicle excise must be accepted by the city or town to be applicable.
For More Information
Questions about your motor vehicle excise should be directed to your local Board of Assessors. It is best to put all questions in writing and to request a written response so that procedures are clearly defined should additional difficulties arise. It is also important to remember that deputy tax collectors or collection agencies are agents of your local tax collector. Complaints concerning the performance of their duties should therefore be directed to your local tax assessor.
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.