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Motor Vehicle Excise Guide



Pursuant to Chapter 61A of the Massachusetts General Laws, every motor vehicle and trailer registered in the Commonwealth is subject to the motor vehicle excise unless expressly exempted.


The motor vehicle excise is imposed for the privilege of registering a motor vehicle.  Registering a motor vehicle automatically triggers the assessment of the excise.  


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.  Cities and towns may also prepare their own bills based on excise data sent by the Registry in conformity with Registry requirements.


The amount of the motor vehicle excise due on any particular vehicle or trailer in any registration year is calculated by multiplying the value of the vehicle by the motor vehicle excise rate of $25.00 per thousand dollars of value.  The value of a vehicle for the purpose of excise is based on a percentage of the MSRP/factory list price new.  The applicable percentages are set out in Ch. 60A section 1 as follows:  

Preceding year of manufacture
Year of manufacture
Second year
Third year
Fourth year
Fifth and all succeeding years

Condition and market value are not considerations in determining the value, nor its age after the 5th year.


Excise bills 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 bill.  Taxpayers should be prepared to pay the full amount due.  There is no special consideration 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 or 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.


Chapter 60A Section 1 makes an abatement available if “during a calendar year ownership of a motor vehicle…is transferred by sale or otherwise and its registration is surrendered.”  Please note that filing for abatement does not stay the collection of taxes.  Conditions for abatement qualification are as follows:

If you transfer title to a vehicle and cancel the registration:
In order to qualify for abatement, two actions are necessary.  A vehicle owner must both (1) convey title to the vehicle and (2) cancel the registration on that vehicle.  The performance of one of these actions alone does not qualify a person for abatement.  Therefore, a person who cancels the registration on a vehicle during the calendar year but does not convey title to the vehicle is not entitled to excise abatement for any part of that year.  A transfer of title may be made by gift, sale, repossession, or any other action which conveys ownership from the registrant to some other person.  A vehicle may also be disposed of at a junkyard.  The registrant, when applying for abatement, should be ready to provide a copy of a bill of sale or receipt stating the name of the person or place the vehicle was sold or disposed.  

If you’ve moved:
A person is eligible for an excise abatement who “during a calendar year…moves to another state and registers such motor vehicle or trailer in such other state and surrenders or does not renew his/her registration in this state”.

If the owner of the vehicle moves out of Massachusetts and registers his/her vehicle in another state and cancels his/her Massachusetts registration or does not renew it may filed for  abatement for that portion of the year after the month in which the vehicle was registered in the new state.  Please note that it is necessary for a person who has moved out-of-state to cancel the registration 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 it is the general policy of that state to confiscate the plates from the old state (California, Arizona, i.e.).

If you sell or trade a vehicle and transfer the registration to another vehicle in the same month:
If a person sells or trades a vehicle, cancels the registration on that vehicle and transfers that registration to another vehicle in the same month, the excise may be abated according to the date of transfer.

If such a transfer occurs during January, the registrant is eligible for a full abatement on the vehicle that the registration was transferred from.

A Vehicle is Stolen:
A registrant is eligible for an abatement of the excise on a vehicle which is stolen, provided that the registrant (1) notifies the police within 48 hours of discovery of the theft, (2) surrenders the certificate of registration and (3) presents a C-19 Form (Affidavit of Lost or Stolen Plate from RMV)

A Vehicle is a Total Loss:
A registrant is eligible for an abatement of the excise on a vehicle which is considered a total loss provided that the registrant (1) provides an insurance settlement letter, and (2) a plate return receipt, C-19 Form (Affidavit of Lost or Stolen Plate from RMV)


A proportionate abatement of the excise may be granted if any of the above conditions is met and the Application for Motor Vehicle Abatement form is properly filed with the Board of Assessors.  

Forms can be found in the Bellingham Municipal Building, on our website (, and will be mailed on request from the Assessors office.  

No excise may be reduced to less than $5.00.  No abatement of less than $5.00 will be granted and no refund of less than $5.00 will be made.


Forms for applying for abatement can be found in the Bellingham Municipal Building, on our website, and will be mailed on request from the Assessors office.  

Questions about your motor vehicle excise should be directed to your local Board of Assessors.

Town of Bellingham
Assessors Department
10 Mechanic Street
Bellingham MA  02019

Registry of Motor Vehicles:

RMV Excise Department: