Vehicle excise tax exemption for servicemembers

  • Published
  • By Capt Katherine Davis-Costa
  • 66th Air Base Group Office of the Staff Judge Advocate

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – All Massachusetts residents who own and register a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth must pay a motor vehicle excise tax annually for using the roadways. However, some drivers qualify for an exemption.

There is no obligation for non-resident military service members to register a car in Massachusetts if it was purchased, titled, and registered in their home state. In addition, there is an exemption to the excise tax for service members who do register their vehicles here.  

Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, or SCRA, personnel are eligible for an exemption if they are not a legal resident of Massachusetts, only register personal vehicles here, and reside here pursuant to military orders. Leased vehicles are not eligible for this exemption; however, in some cases, the company from which the vehicle is leased may pay the tax on behalf of the lessor.

Spouses may also claim an exemption to the excise tax, provided they demonstrate he/she is living in Massachusetts pursuant to a service member’s military orders. If a military member and/or their spouse own multiple vehicles, the exemption may apply to all vehicles if they are registered for personal rather than business use.

Legal residents of Massachusetts may still qualify for an exemption. Active duty service members who are domiciled residents of the Commonwealth may qualify for the excise tax exemption if they have been deployed or stationed overseas for a period of at least 45 days. In this circumstance, the exemption is limited to one vehicle, owned by the member, or jointly with the spouse, in the calendar year during which the deployment took place.

For eligibility, provide a copy of the service member’s leave and earning statement to the local assessor. For on-base residents, the assessor for the town of Lincoln is the proper office. If the assessor rejects the LES, personnel must submit a letter from their commander to the local assessor explaining the non-resident status due to military assignment. To obtain the appropriate form letter, service members should contact their first sergeant.   

Legal assistance attorneys can meet with personnel to discuss eligibility for the excise tax exemption.

For further information or questions about these topics, contact the Hanscom Legal Office at 781-225-1410.