Everything About Excise Tax

Who do I call with questions about Motor Vehicle Excise Tax?

  • For questions about an abatement, contact the Assessor’s office at 978-671-0971.
  • For questions about the valuation of your vehicle, contact the RMV at 857-368-8181.  All valuations are determined by the RMV.
  • For questions about payments, balances or status of your refund, contact the Tax Office at 978-671-0920

What is motor vehicle excise tax?

It is an annual tax for the privilege of registration. Anyone who registers a vehicle with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) will be billed based on the information supplied to the Registry of Motor Vehicles on the registrant's application. M.G.L. Chapter 60A 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 Registry of Motor Vehicles prepares data for excise bills according to the information on the motor vehicle registration and sends it to city or town Assessors. Cities and towns then prepare bills based on excise data sent by the Registry in conformity with Registry requirements.

Who must pay?

Anyone with a Massachusetts’ license plate

How are vehicles valued?

Based on valuation rates set by the state, vehicles are valued as follows:

  • 50% of mfr.'s list price in the year preceding the designated year of manufacture (brand new car released before model year)
  • 90% of mfr.'s list price (1st year)
  • 60% of mfr.'s list price (2nd year)
  • 40% of mfr.'s list price (3rd year)
  • 25% of mfr.'s list price (4th year)
  • 10% of mfr.'s list price (5th year

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 basis by the Assessors of the city or 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). 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.

What if I no longer own the vehicle I’m being taxed on?

Basically, what did you do with the plate and with the car?

NOTE: It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored.

You may qualify for an abatement if:

  • a vehicle is sold, traded or junked -  the seller must show documentation that the plates have been returned to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, or online OR new registration if plates have been transferred and a  Bill of Sale, Purchase and Sale contract showing that you sold/traded in that vehicle. (Please be sure that the VIN # and new owner is evident) or Junk Yard Receipt. The bill will be adjusted to reflect the portion of the year when the vehicle was owned by the recipient of the bill.  NOTE: It is important to remember that the bill for a vehicle you no longer own should not be ignored.
  • a vehicle is totaled - If an excise bill is received for a vehicle or trailer which was totaled. Documents needed: Insurance Company Settlement letter (Please be sure that the VIN # is evident) and new registration or Cancelled plate return receipt. The bill will be adjusted to reflect the portion of the year when the vehicle was owned by the recipient of the bill.
  • a vehicle 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 discovery of the theft. After 30 days, the owner must surrenders the certificate of registration and obtain a certificate from the Registry of Motor Vehicles indicating that he/she has done so. Documentation needed: Police Report and C-19 form (Affidavit of Lost or Stolen plate) - this certificate and the local police report of the theft should be presented to the Assessor’s office for abatement. The assessor will adjust the bill and grant abatement for the remaining portion 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.

What if I no longer live in Billerica?

  • If a registrant moves out of Billerica to another city or town within Massachusetts AND has changed his/her address prior with the RMV prior to January 1st of the taxing year, he/she should provide the Assessor’s office with the following documentation: proof of garaging as of January 1, of the billing year and a copy of the Insurance Policy (Cover Selection Page) as of January 1 of the tax year, pay the motor vehicle excise to the city or town in which he/she resided on January 1.
  • If the owner did not notify the Registry that he/she moved before the first of the year, it is necessary to pay the former city or town which had sent the excise bill.

What if I no longer live in Massachusetts?

  • If a registrant moves out of state, cancels his/her MA registration, and registers in another state, he/she should notify the Assessor’s Office and provide them with a copy of the following documentation: Registration for the New State or County AND Plate Return Receipt.  Please note that 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.

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 of the original tax. The minimum abatement amount is $5.00

Who qualifies for an exemption?

M.G.L. Chapter 60A, Section 1 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. For 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 a certificate from the Commission of the Blind.
  • Handicapped: Must suffer either the loss of or the permanent loss of use of both arms or both legs.  A letter from physician must be submitted. If exemption is sought due to loss of use of limbs, the letter must state that it is a permanent loss. Vehicle must be owned and registered by handicapped person.  Note: A handicapped person who owns a vehicle jointly, satisfies the ownership requirement for a full exemption. However, only one vehicle will be exempted per year.
  • Veterans: Must suffer either 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 Veterans' Administration must be furnished. The vehicle must be owned and registered in the name of the veteran.
  • Prisoner of War: Any U.S. Military former Prisoner of War who registers a vehicle with a P.O.W. license plate.
  • Non-Domiciliary Servicemen: Servicemen assigned to Massachusetts by the Armed Forces.  Vehicle must be registered in his/her name. Must submit a letter from either a commanding or personnel officer stating that he/she is a non-domiciliary assigned to Massachusetts. Must be assigned in Massachusetts at the time of registration. 


Where can I find out more information on Motor Vehicle Excise Tax?