Motor vehicle and boat tax
If you register your car in Boston or own a boat in the City, you need to pay annual taxes related to your ownership, also known as excise payments.
Massachusetts law requires that you pay a tax on a registered motor vehicle or trailer. Motor vehicles include motorcycles, cars, buses, off-road vehicles, and trucks.
City and town assessors send excise bills based on Registry of Motor Vehicles data. Excise tax bills are due on every calendar year.
HOW WE DETERMINE THE EXCISE AMOUNT
The state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles sends information to the City of Boston each year that is used to calculate the excise bill amounts. By law, the registry determines the value of motor vehicles each year based on the list price and age of the vehicle.
You are taxed at a rate of $25 per thousand dollars of your car’s value. If you registered your car after January 31, we tax you from the month that you registered your car until the end of the year. For example, if you register your car on April 20, you will be taxed for nine months of the year, from April 1 until December 31.
MOTOR VEHICLE EXCISE ABATEMENT
An abatement is a reduction in your excise taxes. You can file a motor vehicle excise abatement form for the following reasons:
- if you believe your vehicle’s value is incorrect
- if you canceled your registration in the year you were taxed
- if your vehicle was traded, stolen, or sold during the year it was taxed and you had canceled your registration, or
- if you moved to another state, registered your vehicle in the new state, and canceled your Massachusetts registration.
You can also file an abatement for a junked vehicle, but:
- you need to show a receipt from the junkyard, and
- you also must show a license plate return receipt or a copy of the new registration form if the plates were transferred. If you cancel your registration, remember to get a plate return receipt from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
PROBLEMS WITH YOUR MOTOR VEHICLE EXCISE
If you own a motor vehicle in Boston, you must pay an excise each year. It’s your responsibility to contact the Taxpayer Referral and Assistance at 617-635-4287 if you did not receive an excise bill.
Even if you never received your excise bill, you are still responsible for any interest or fines that have been applied to your account. That’s why it’s important to make sure you update your mailing address with the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
If you don’t make your payment within 30 days of the date the City issued the excise tax, the City’s Collector-Treasurer will send a demand. The demand charge is $5.
The City also adds interest to your bill from the day after it was due until you pay it off, at an annual rate of 12 percent. If you don’t answer the demand within 14 days, the Collector-Treasurer may issue a warrant notice, which carries additional fees.
If you don’t answer the warrant, the City will send you a final service warrant at your home or work. If you ignore the service warrant and don’t make your payment, you won’t be able to renew your license or registration. Total fees could add up to $64.
When you finally settle your account, we give you a receipt that you can show the Registry of Motor Vehicles. If you have any questions about payments for the current fiscal year, contact the Taxpayer Referral and Assistance Center at 617-635-4287. For payments in previous years, call the Collections Department at 617-635-4131.
MOTOR VEHICLE EXCISE EXEMPTIONS
State law allows motor vehicle excise tax exemptions for vehicles owned by certain disabled people and veterans, former prisoners of war and their surviving spouses, and charitable organizations. To find out if you qualify, call the Taxpayer Referral and Assistance Center at 617-635-4287.
At the end of each fiscal year, we receive a list of boat owners who registered their boats in Boston. The Coast Guard also gives us a list of documented boats. We use both lists to find out who needs to pay an excise tax for their boat.
ESTIMATING YOUR BOAT’S VALUE
By law, we determine a boat’s value according to its length and age. A tax rate of $10 for every thousand dollars of value is used to calculate boat excise amounts.
BOAT EXCISE ABATEMENT
An abatement is a reduction in your excise taxes. You can file a boat excise abatement form for the following reasons:
- if your boat was traded, stolen, or sold during the year it was taxed and the registration was canceled
- if you moored your boat in another Massachusetts city or town, or
- if you moved to another state.
You can also file an abatement for a junked boat. You need to show a receipt from the junkyard as well as proof of your canceled registration.
If you file an abatement on the basis of tax exemption, you must provide proof of your qualification for the exemption.
PROBLEMS WITH YOUR BOAT EXCISE
If you own a boat in Boston, you must pay an excise each year. It’s your responsibility to contact Taxpayer Referral and Assistance at 617-635-4287 if you did not receive an excise bill.
If you paid your excise in another city but still received a bill from Boston, we need to see proof that you paid your bill in the other city.
BOAT EXCISE AND MOORING PERMITS
If you don’t pay your excise, you can’t get a mooring permit. If you moor a boat without a permit, you can be subject to fines totaling $25 per day.
You need to show proof that you paid your most recent excise before you receive a mooring permit. Learn how to get a boat mooring permit.
For any questions about your excise as it relates to mooring permits, email the Collecting division of Treasury at email@example.com.
WHO TO CONTACT ON BOATS
- For technical questions about the online application, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you have questions about your mooring location, contact the Boston Police Harbormaster at 617-343-4721, or by email: email@example.com.
- If you have questions about a payment, renewal, or the mooring ordinance, call our office at 617-635-4129. Read the Boston Mooring Ordinance.