Motor Vehicle Excise

Motor Vehicle Excise

Q:  What if my vehicle is leased?

A:  Leased cars are still subject to excise tax.  However, whose obligation for payment is determined by any terms in the original leasing contract.  If not addressed, the driver should inquire of the leasing company.  Normally, if the car is registered in the driver’s name, the registration creates an obligation and liability for payment of excise tax upon the driver, not the leasing company.  Even if the car is registered in the leasing company’s name, however, there may be terms in the contract passing on any taxes, excise included, onto the driver, so it is best to check the contract.


Q:  Who qualifies for an abatement?

A:  You may qualify for an abatement when:

  • a vehicle is sold, traded, or junked;
  • a vehicle is totaled;
  • a vehicle is stolen;
  • a registrant moves to another city or town within Massachusetts prior to January 1st of the taxing year;
  • a registrant moves out of state, cancels his/her MA registration, and registers in another state prior to December 1st.


Q:  Can I get an abatement?

A:  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 and contact the Board of Assessors for an application for abatement.  Follow the directions on the form and send it to the Board of Assessors.  NOTE: on unpaid excise tax bills, an owner risks incurring late fees and penalties if an abatement is not granted.  The Board of 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.


Q:  What information do I need to file with an abatement application?

A:  You will need the following items:

  • Sold,  Traded, or Junked: Bill of sale AND either a plate return receipt or new registration if plates were transferred.
  • Stolen, or Total Loss: Insurance Company Settlement letter and C-19 form (affidavit of Lost/Stolen plate form Registry of Motor Vehicles).
  • Moved to another city or town in MA prior to January 1st of the taxing year: Proof that vehicle was garaged and insured in another MA city or town, i.e. copy of the Coverage Selections Page from insurance company.
  • Moved to another state or country:  Dated copy of original registration from the new state or country and either a plate return receipt or a C-19 form from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.


Q:  How are abatements figured?

A: 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 or 10/12ths of the original tax.  The minimum abatement amount is $5.00.


Q:  Who qualifies for an exemption?

A: 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:
    1. Permanent impairment of vision in both eyes.
    2. Must own and register for their own personal use.
    3. Must submit either a certificate from the Division of the Blind or a physician's letter.
  • Handicapped:
    1. Must suffer either the loss of or the permanent loss of use of both arms or both legs.
    2. A letter from physician must be submitted.
    3. If exemption is sought due to loss of use of limbs, the letter must state that it is a permanent loss.
    4. 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:
    1. 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.
    2. A certificate from the Veterans' Administration must be furnished.
    3. The vehicle must be owned and registered in the name of the veteran.
  • Prisoner of War:
    1. Any U.S. Military former Prisoner of War who registers a vehicle with a P.O.W. license plate.
  • Non-Domiciliary Servicemen:
    1. Servicemen assigned to Massachusetts by the Armed Forces.
    2. Vehicle must be registered in his/her name.
    3. Must submit a letter from either a commanding or personnel officer stating that he/she is a non-domiciliary assigned to Massachusetts.
    4. Must be assigned here at the time of registration.

Please contact the Board of Assessors at (413) 395-0102 for further details on eligibility.


Q:  When must I file for an abatement/exemption?

A:  You must file by December 31st of the following year.  If your tax bill is issued after December 1st of the following year, you have thirty days from the date of issue of your bill to file an application.


Q:  Where must I file for an abatement?

A:  You can submit and file the abatement form either in person at the Assessors' Office or through the mail, Room 108, City Hall, 70 Allen Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201.


Q:  When is payment due?

A:  Payment of the motor vehicle excise is due within 30 days from the date the excise bill is issued.  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, the City of Pittsfield, 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 Tax Collector if you have not received a bill.


Q:  What happens if my payment is late?

A:  If an excise is not paid within 30 days from the issue date, the local tax collector sends a demand.  The charge for the demand is $15.  Interest accrues on the overdue bill from the day after the due date until the date of payment at an annual rate of 12 percent.  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 warrant notice sent by the deputy collector (or the appointed agent) to the taxpayer costs $22.  If this notice is not answered than a final warrant, a service warrant, will be delivered or exhibited to the taxpayer at his/her residence or place of business at a fee of $17.  All bills should clearly state the interest and penalty charges.


Q:  How does non-payment of motor vehicle excise affect license and registration?

A:  If the service warrant demanding final payment is ignored, the collector may then notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles of such non-payment, including all accrued interest and penalty fees.  The Registry 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 Registry is notified that full and final payment has been made to the city or town.  This payment shall include a $20 release fee as final settlement of the delinquent excise.  Once the bill had 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 Registry 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 Registry 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. Chapter 60A, Section 2A), 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 individually.  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 still be resolved with the local tax collector.


Q:  What if I've moved out of Pittsfield?

A:  If a motor vehicle owner moves within Massachusetts and has not paid an excise tax for the current year, he/she should notify the Board of Assessors at (413) 395-0102 of his/her new address, provide them with a copy of the following documentation: the date of move; 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 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 or 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.


Q:  What if I've moved out of Massachusetts?

A:  If the owner of a vehicle moves out of Massachusetts and registers his/her vehicle in another state, notify the Board of Assessors at (413) 395-0102 and provide them with a copy of the following documentation: as of January 1 of the tax year the Registration Form for the New State or County or 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.


Q:  What if I sold my car?

A:  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 or new registration form and the bill of sale with the Board of Assessors at (413) 395-0102. 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.


Q:  What if I traded my car?

A:  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 file an application for abatement with the Board of Assessors at (413) 395-0102. The application must accompany a copy of the New Registration Form for the new vehicle that 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 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 of Assessors can then adjust the bill to reflect the ownership for only part of the year, and grant the proper abatement.  The bill is prorated back to the last day of the month in which the vehicle was owned and the excise bill on the new vehicle will be prorated as of the date the new vehicle was registered.


Q:  What if my car is stolen?

A:  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, notify the Board of Assessors at (413) 395-0102 and provide them with a copy of the following documentation: 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 Board of Assessors with an application for abatement.  The Board of Assessors 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.


 

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