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Motor Vehicle Excise Tax

The motor vehicle excise tax is imposed on every motor vehicle and trailer registered in Massachusetts. The tax is imposed for the privilege of using the roadways and for registering a motor vehicle. The registration process of a motor vehicle automatically triggers the assessment of the excise.

The information on all excise tax bills comes directly and exclusively from the information your insurance company or agent supplies to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The Town of Nahant receives the bills via a tape from the Registry and mails and collects the tax. We do not assess the tax or compile the information on your bills.

The motor vehicle excise tax is assessed at a rate of $25.00 per $1,000 value. The Registry of Motor Vehicles sets this value. The original (model year) value is based upon the manufacturer’s list price according to the N.A.D.A Blue Book. The taxable value is adjusted each year in accordance with the following schedule:

Year Prior to Model Year50%
Model Year90%
Second Year60%
Third Year40%
Fourth Year25%
Fifth Year and Each Year Thereafter10%

Motor Vehicle Excise Tax bills are issued on a calendar-year basis. The bill is owed to the community where the vehicle or trailer was garaged as of January 1. The address of the registrant is based upon the registration address provided by the owner to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Vehicles registered for a portion of a calendar year are eligible for proration based upon whole months. For new registrations, this occurs automatically. For cancelled or changed registrations, it is up to the owner to notify the Board of Assessors. Once issued, a bill cannot be abated below $5.00 unless the registration date as of January 1 was erroneous; e.g., wrong place of garaging or ownership, or plate.

Motor Vehicle Excise Tax bills are issued on a calendar-year basis. The bill is owed to the community where the vehicle or trailer was garaged as of January 1. The address of the registrant is based upon the registration address provided by the owner to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

A plate return receipt or insurance termination notice is normally sufficient documentation for the Board of Assessors. When existing plates are transferred to a new vehicle, a copy of the new registration provides adequate evidence.

Owners of vehicles registered as of January 1 can expect to receive a bill by late February or early March. A new registration normally produces a bill 2 to 3 months afterwards.

The most common source of taxpayer confusion arises when a vehicle is registered late in the calendar year. This generates a tax bill early in the next calendar year, which may be followed soon thereafter by a full year bill for the new calendar year. Each bill identifies the year prominently. Taxpayers should make note of the year of the bill when paying an excise tax.

Common Problems

The most common reason for a tax bill to be issued for a vehicle no longer on the road is the failure of the owner to return the plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles as required. If a vehicle no longer on the road retains the plate registration, the bill may not be abated until it is sold or junked.

The most common reason for a tax bill to be issued to a former place of residence is the failure to notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles of the address change or the new place of garaging.

It is important to note that state law authorizes the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to suspend or revoke the license or registration of an operator or owner of a motor vehicle for failure to report within 30 days any change of name or address.

Questions concerning tax payments should be addressed to the Collector at (781) 581-0018.

Questions concerning tax errors, valuations, over-valuations or exemptions must be addressed to the Assessor’s Office at (781) 581-0212.