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Assessors: Motor Vehicle Excise

Town of Middleborough Assessors
10 Nickerson Avenue
Middleborough, MA  02346
Fax: 508-946-4430

Motor Vehicle Excise

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.


The Registry of Motor Vehicles prepares excise bills according to the information on the motor vehicle registration. They are sent to the city or town assessors who commit them to the local tax collector for distribution and collection of payment. Cities and towns may also prepare their own bills based on excise data sent by the Registry in conformity with Registry requirements.

Bill Computation

An excise at the rate of $25 per one thousand dollars of valuation (effective 1/1/81) 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 on whether the motor vehicle is an automobile, a truck, a motorcycle, or a trailer. For example, automobile valuations are derived from figures published in the National Automobile Dealers Association Official Used Car Guide (NADA), to which the Registry has electronic access. Most public libraries have copies of NADA and other motor vehicle official guides.

Figures are the manufacturers’ list prices for vehicles in their year of manufacture. Present market value, price paid, or condition is 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 manufacturers’ 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 of manufacture 60%

In the third year of manufacture 40%

In the fourth year of manufacture 25%

In the fifth year of manufacture 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.


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. Generally tax collectors and deputy tax collectors do not accept partial payment of an excise tax bill. Taxpayers should be prepared to pay the full amount due. There are no special considerations for financial hardship.


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 is not paid within 30 days from the issue date, the local tax collector sends a demand. Interest accrues on the overdue bill from the day after the due date until the date of payment. If the demand is not answered within 14 days, the collector may issue a warrant to the deputy tax collector or an appointed agent. The taxpayer is then additionally liable for a warrant fee. If this notice is not answered, then a final warrant, a service warrant, will be delivered or exhibited to the taxpayer at his/her residence or place of business. All bills should clearly state the interest and penalty charges.

Non-Renewal of Registration and Driver’s License

If the service warrant demanding final payment is ignored, the collector may then notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles of such non-payment, including all accrued interest and penalty fees. The Registrar may then mark the individual’s registration preventing the renewal of the motor vehicle registration and the owner’s driver’s license until such time as the Registrar is notified that full and final payment has been made to the city or town. This payment shall include a release fee as final settlement of the delinquent excise. Once the bill has been paid, the municipality will give the motorist a receipt so he or she can return to the Registry to re-register his/her vehicle. Although the local tax collectors do notify the Registrar that the matter is resolved, it is strongly advised to retain the certified receipt of payment for presentation to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Cities and towns relay computerized notification that excise bills have been paid only periodically to the Registry. Local tax collectors, in effect, have up to six years to notify the Registrar of non-payment.

Under the excise tax law, tax collectors have six years from the issue date of a bill to notify the Registry of non-payment by a driver (M.G.L. c.60A, s.2), unless the tax record shows a history of non-payment. However, under the Registry’s own policy, this notification time has been reduced to just two years. If the record does show a history of delinquency, the tax collectors can electronically mark the driver’s record and institute proceedings to collect for as many years back (beyond six years, in other words) as necessary and notify the Registry. The Registry, in turn reviews each notification beyond two years. If a taxpayer has had a good history of payment and suddenly receives a bill dating back more than six years, the assessors will assign a tax collector to collect the bill; the tax collector in turn, will attempt to collect and assess late fees and penalties, as is required by law if applicable. However, the collector can no longer mark the driver’s record for non-payment since the Registry only allows two years for notification from the issue date of the bill. Thus, the taxpayer’s ability to renew the license, in this instance, is not hampered; but the bill must be resolved with the tax collector.


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, then contact the local Board of Assessors for an application for abatement. Although payment of a bill is not a precondition for an abatement an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted. The assessors must receive applications for abatement by December 31 of the year following the year of the tax. If the bill is mailed after December 1 of the year following the tax year, application must be made on or before the 30th day from the date of issue or the date of mailing, whichever is later. Abatements can be handled through the mail; however, the bill should be paid as assessed and a refund will follow if the abatement is granted.

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 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.

If the application for abatement is denied at the local level or if a decision is not made within three months of filing, the denial can be appealed to the State Appellate Tax Board. Any abatement granted by the State Appellate Tax Board because of overpayment shall be refunded by the city or town treasurer accompanied by six percent interest, calculated from the date of payment of the excise to the date the refund is paid. No interest is due the taxpayer if the Board of Assessors grants the abatement. No abatement can reduce a tax to less than $5, and no abatement of less than $5 will be granted.

If You’ve Moved

If a motor vehicle owner moves within Massachusetts and has not paid an excise tax for the current year, he/she should immediately notify the local assessor of his/her new address. The owner must pay the motor vehicle excise to the city or 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 the owner moved. If the owner did not notify the Registry, 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 and 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.

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 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 Massachusetts and obtain a return plate 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 Massachusetts 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.

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 then provide a copy of the registration for the new vehicle which indicates the date of transfer together with an application for abatement to the Board of Assessors. The board can then adjust the bill to reflect the ownership for only part of the year, and grant the proper abatement. The bill on the trade-in vehicle is prorated back to the last day of the month prior to the one in which the vehicle’s registration was cancelled and the excise bill on the new vehicle will be prorated as of the beginning of the month in which the vehicle was registered.

If Your Motor Vehicle is Stolen

If the vehicle is stolen and not recovered within 30 days, the owner will be entitled to an abatement if the theft of the vehicle was reported to the local police within 48 hours of discovery of the theft. After 30 days, the owner must surrender the certificate of registration and obtain a certificate from the Registry of Motor Vehicles indicating that he/she has done so. This certificate and the local police report of the theft should be presented to the Board of Assessors with an application for abatement. The board 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 reregistered, 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.

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, 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 you 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.

Important Reminder

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.

Information provided by:

Citizen Information Service
One Ashburton Place, Room 1611
Boston, MA 02108
727-7030(in Boston area)
1-800-392-6090 (Toll Free)