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Motor Vehicle Excise Tax Questions
What is motor vehicle excise tax?
It is an annual tax for the privilege of registration. Anyone who registers a vehicle with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation - RMV Division will be billed based on the information supplied to the RMV on the registrant’s application. Chapter 60A of Mass. 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 the 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. The Department of Transportation - RMV Division prepares data for excise bills according to the information on the motor vehicle registration and sends it to the Assessor’s Office. The bills are then prepared based on excise data sent by the RMV in conformity with Registry requirements.

Who must pay?
Anyone with Massachusetts license plates.

What is the rate?
The rate is $25.00 per thousand of the value of the car. This is the standard for the entire commonwealth.

How are vehicles valued?
Based on valuation rates set by the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), vehicles are valued as follows:
  • 50% of manufacturer’s list price in the year preceding the designated year of manufacture(brand new car released before model year)
  • 90% of manufacturer’s list price (1st year)
  • 60% of manufacturer’s list price (2nd year)
  • 40% of manufacturer’s list price (3rd year)
  • 25% of manufacturer’s list price (4th year)
  • 10% of manufacturer’s list price (5th year and thereafter)

How is the tax determined?
Once the value of the vehicle is determined, an excise at the rate of $25.00 per thousand is assessed. Excise taxes are assessed annually on a calendar year by the assessors of town in which the vehicle is garaged as of January 1st. 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 qualifies for an abatement?
You may qualify for an abatement when:
  • A vehicle is sold, traded or junked
  • A vehicle is totaled
  • A vehicle is stolen
  • A registrant moves to another city or town within Massachusetts prior to January 1st of the taxing year
  • A registrant moves out of state, cancels his/her MA registration and registers in another state prior to December 1st

Can I get an abatement?

If an owner of a motor vehicle thinks that he/she is entitled to an adjustment of his/her excise bill, it is strongly recommended that he/she pay the bill in full and contact the Assessor’s Office for an application for abatement. A Motor Vehicle Abatement Application may be printed from this site; follow the directions and bring it to the Assessor’s Office for review.

NOTE:
On unpaid excise tax bills, an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted. Applications for abatement must be filed within three years after the excise was due or one year after the excise was paid, whichever is later. Abatement can be handled through the mail, however the bill should be paid as assessed and a refund will follow if the abatement is granted.

To file an abatement application, you will need the following items:
  • If your car is sold, traded or junked, you will need the bill of sale and either a plate return receipt or new registration if plates were transferred.
  • If your car is stolen or a total loss, you will need the Insurance Company Settlement letter and C-19 form, Affidavit of Lost/Stolen plate from the Department of Transportation - RMV Division.
  • If you have moved to another city or town in MA prior to January 1st of the taxing year, you will need proof that the vehicle was garaged and insured in another MA city or town. A copy of your Coverage Selections Page from your insurance company is sufficient.
  • If you moved to another state or country, you will need a dated copy of the original registration from the new state or country and either a plate return receipt or a C-19 form from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

How are abatements figured?

Abatements are pro-rated monthly. The abatement amount is calculated from the registration cancellation date to December 31st of the tax year. For example, if the tax bill was issued for the whole year and the plate was cancelled in the month of February, you would be due an abatement for 10 months or 10/12ths of the original tax. The minimum abatement amount is $5.00.

Who qualifies for an exemption?

Chapter 60A of the Massachusetts General Laws provides excise tax exemptions for vehicles owned by certain disabled individuals and veterans, ex-prisoners of war and their unmarried surviving spouses. The law allowing the exemption for the motor vehicle excise must be accepted by the city or town to be applicable. Those listed below qualify for an exemption.

Blind:
  • Permanent impairment of vision in both eyes.
  • Must own and register for their own personal use.
  • Must submit either a certificate from the Division of the Blind or a physician’s letter.

Handicapped:
  • Must suffer either the loss of or the permanent loss of use of both arms or both legs.
  • A letter from your physician must be submitted. If the exemption is sought due to loss of use of limbs, the letter must state that it is permanent.
  • The vehicle must be owned and registered by the handicapped person. If the vehicle is jointly owned, the full exemption requirement is satisfied.
  • Only one vehicle per year will be exempted.

Veterans:
  • Must suffer the loss of or the permanent loss of use of one foot, one hand, one eye or permanent impairment of vision in both eyes.
  • A certificate from the Veteran’s Administration must be furnished.
  • The vehicle must be owned and registered in the name of the veteran.

Prisoner of War (POW):
  • Any U.S. military former Prisoner of War who registers a vehicle with a POW license plate.

Non-Domiciliary Servicemen:
  • Servicemen assigned to Massachusetts by the Armed Force.
  • Vehicle must be registered in his/her name.
  • A letter must be submitted from either a commanding or personnel officer stating that he/she is a non-domiciliary assigned to Massachusetts.
  • Must be assigned here at the time of registration.

Please contact the Assessor’s Office at 413-596-2800, Ext. 209 for further details on eligibility.

When must I file for an abatement/exemption?
Abatement applications must be filed within three years after the excise was due or one year after the excise was paid, whichever is later.

Where must I file for an abatement?
You can file either in person at the Assessor’s Office or through the mail:

Board of Assessors
240 Springfield Street
Wilbraham, MA 01095

You can print the Motor Vehicle Abatement Application here.

When is payment due?
Payment of the motor vehicle excise tax is due within 30 days from the date the excise bill is issued. A person who does not receive a bill is still liable for the excise plus any accrued interest and fees. Therefore, it is important to keep the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Town of Wilbraham and the U.S. Postal Service informed of any name and address changes so excise tax 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 Collector’s Office if you have not received a bill.

What happens if my payment is late?
If an excise is not paid within 30 days from the issue date, the Collector’s Office sends a demand bill. The demand charge is $5.00. Interest accrues on the overdue bill from the day after the due date until the date of payment at an annual rate of 12 percent. If the demand is not answered within 14 days, the Collector may issue a warrant to the Deputy Collector. The warrant notice sent by the Deputy Collector incurs an additional $22.00 to the demand bill. If this notice is unanswered, a service of warrant will be delivered or exhibited to the taxpayer at his/her residence or place of business at an additional fee of $17.00. All bills will clearly state the interest and penalty charges.

How does non-payment of motor vehicle excise affect license and renewal?
If the service of warrant is ignored, the Collector may then notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles of non-payment, including all accrued interest and fees. The Registry may then “mark” the individual’s vehicle registration and owner’s driver’s license preventing renewal until the Registry is notified that full and final payment has been made to the Town of Wilbraham. This payment, which includes an additional $20.00 Registry of Motor Vehicles mark fee as a final settlement of the delinquent excise, must be paid by money order only to the Collector’s Office. A paid receipt is given to the customer as proof of payment. Once the excise bill is paid, the Registry is notified and the mark is released. Renewal of driver’s license and vehicle registration can now be obtained.

What if I’ve moved out of Wilbraham?
If a motor vehicle owner moves within Massachusetts and has not paid an excise tax for the current year, he/she should notify the Assessor’s Office at (413) 596-2800, Ext. 209 of his/her new address and provide them a copy of the following documentation: the date of the move, proof of garaging as of January 1 of the billing year and a copy of the Insurance Policy (Coverage Selections Page) as of January 1 of the tax year. Payment of the motor vehicle excise tax should be paid to the city/town in which he/she resided on January 1.

If the owner moved before the first of the year, he/she must pay the tax to the new community to which he/she moved. If the owner did not notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the local assessor and the post office that he/she moved before the first of the year, it may be necessary to file for an abatement with the former city or town which had sent the excise bill. Most cities or towns will dismiss the bill and reroute it to the new community once the owner furnishes proof that he/she had moved before the first of the year.

What if I’ve moved out of Massachusetts?
If the owner of a vehicle moves out of Massachusetts and registers his/her vehicle in another state he/she must notify the Assessor’s Office at (413) 596-2800, Ext. 209 and provide them with a copy of the registration form from the new state or county and a plate return receipt from Massachusetts. The Registry strongly encourages a person who has moved to another state to cancel the registration in Massachusetts in order to avoid problems with an excise tax abatement application or future registration in the new state.

What if I sold my car?
If an excise bill is received for a vehicle or trailer which has been sold, the seller must return the license plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to obtain a plate return receipt. To file for an abatement, a Motor Vehicle Abatement Application must be completed and the plate return receipt or new registration form must be submitted along with the bill of sale to the Assessor’s Office. The bill will be adjusted to reflect the portion of the year when the vehicle was owned by the recipient of the bill. Please note that it is very important that a bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored.

What if I traded my car?
If you receive an excise bill for a vehicle which was traded and not owned in the calendar year stated on the bill, it is recommended that you pay the bill and file an application for abatement with the Assessor’s Office at (413) 596-2800, Ext. 209. The application must accompany a copy of the new registration for the vehicle that indicates the date of transfer. 

If an excise bill is received for a vehicle which was traded but which was owned for a portion of the calendar year stated on the bill, it is necessary to pay the bill and provide a copy of the registration for the new vehicle which indicates the date of transfer together with an application for abatement to the Assessor’s office. The bill will then be adjusted to reflect the ownership for only part of the year and the proper abatement will be granted by prorating back to the last day of the month in which the vehicle was owned. The excise bill on the new vehicle will be prorated as of the date of registration.

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 reports the theft of the vehicle to the local police within 48 hours of the discovery of the theft. After 30 days, the owner must surrender the certificate of registration and obtain a certificate from the Department of Transportation - RMV Division indicating that he/she has done so. Also, the Assessor’s office must be notified at (413) 596-2800, Ext. 209 and be provided with a copy of the police report, the Affidavit of Lost or Stolen Plate (form C-19), police report and an application for abatement.  The Assessors will adjust the bill and grant an abatement for the remaining portion of the year.

If the motor vehicle or trailer is subsequently recovered and re-registered, another excise bill will be issued for the remainder of the year. 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.

For more information about motor vehicle excise…
Questions about your motor vehicle excise valuation or abatement requests can be directed to the Assessor’s Office at (413) 596-2800, Ext. 209.

Questions about your motor vehicle excise payments or balances can be directed to the Collector’s Office at (413) 596-2800, Ext. 206.