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.
Motor vehicle information
Massachusetts law requires that you pay a tax on registered motor vehicles or trailers. Motor vehicles include motorcycles, cars, buses, off-road vehicles, and trucks.
HOW WE DETERMINE THE EXCISE AMOUNT
The state’s Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) sends information to the City of Boston every year. We use that information to calculate the amount of the excise bill. By law, the RMV determines the value of each motor vehicle and trailer using the list price and age of the vehicle and trailer.
You are taxed at a rate of $25 per thousand dollars of your car’s value. If you registered your car after January 31, you are taxed from the month that you registered your car until the end of the calendar 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:
- your vehicle was traded, stolen, or sold during the year it was taxed and you had canceled your registration, or
- you moved to another state, registered your vehicle or trailer in the new state, and canceled your Massachusetts registration.
You can also file an abatement application for a junked vehicle or trailer, but:
- you need to show a receipt from the junkyard, and
- you also must show a license plate return receipt from the RMV or, if the plate is transferred to a different vehicle or trailer, a copy of the new registration form
- if you cancel your registration, remember to get a license plate return receipt from the RMV.
Note: vehicle or trailer overvaluation is not a basis for filing an abatement. If you think your vehicle or trailer is overvalued, contact the RMV at 857-368-8181.
Filing an abatement application does not excuse you from paying the excise bill. If payment is not made within 30 days of the date the City issued the excise tax, the City’s Collector-Treasurer will send a demand for the amount of the excise plus a demand charge of $5.
Unpaid excise bills will accrue interest at the rate of 12% from the day after it was due until it is paid off. If the demand is not answered 14 days, the Collector-Treasurer may issue a warrant notice, which carries additional fees.
If the warrant is not answered, a final service warrant will be sent to your home or work. If the service warrant goes unpaid, you will not be able to renew your license or registration.
If and when you settle your account, a receipt will be given to you that you can show the RMV. 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.
PROBLEMS WITH YOUR MOTOR VEHICLE EXCISE
If you own a motor vehicle or trailer 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 RMV.
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.
We get information on who must pay a boat excise from two sources:
- a list of boat owners who registered their boats in Boston, and
- a list provided by the United States Coast Guard.
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:
- your boat was traded, stolen, or sold during the year it was taxed and the registration was canceled
- you moored your boat in another Massachusetts city or town, or
- you moved to another state, registered your boat in that state, and you surrender or do not renew your registration in Massachusetts.
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.
Even if you never received your excise bill, you are still responsible for any interest or fines that may have been applied to your account. That’s why it is important to make sure you update your mailing address.
Note: the excise payment is due sixty days after the issuance date. Late payments are subject to interest and penalties equal to $20 or 20 percent of the amount of the excise due, whichever is greater.
BOAT EXCISE AND MOORING PERMITS
If you don’t pay your excise, you can’t get a mooring permit. You need to show proof that you paid your most recent excise before you receive a mooring permit.
If you moor a boat without a permit, you will be assessed a penalty of $25 per day for each day the violation exists. In addition, the boat may be removed and delivered to the possession of the Harbormaster to a storage area designated by the Harbormaster. You are responsible for all costs and fees incurred for such removal and storage. We have more information on our boat mooring permit page.