Sometimes bureaucratic inertia works to one’s advantage. If you owned an exotic motor vehicle in the last decade or so and registered it with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you probably escaped most of the excise tax:

[The Registry of Motor Vehicles] failed to assess some 131,000 super-costly vehicles properly from perhaps the late 1990s until 2007.

During that period, the RMV used National Auto Dealers Association car values to calculate tax bills on vehicles registered in Massachusetts. However, NADA’s database excludes high-end cars, big trucks and other unusual vehicles, including some Massachusetts-registered models that auditors found were worth $1.5 million.

A special RMV unit once calculated such vehicles’ values by hand, but gradually stopped doing so as staffing levels dropped. Instead, Registry workers either left cars’ valuations blank — meaning owners never got tax bills — or wrote in “$17,000” regardless of vehicles’ actual values.

I’d love to have a $17,000 Maserati.

The Bay State missed out, they estimate, on $32 million in revenue every year, but doesn’t expect to collect much of it: apparently they can’t arbitrarily alter a valuation once it’s in the system, and they certainly can’t pursue a vehicle owner if he’s moved away.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s posit a 2008 Porsche 911 Turbo (list price: $127,060). The annual tax bill on this car would be $2858.85 in the first year, dropping to $1905.90 in the second year, bottoming out in year 5 at $317.65.

And while we’re at it, let’s compare these numbers to what you’d pay in Oklahoma, which soaks you the first year but backs off considerably after that. Excise tax on the Porsche, paid at first registration, would be $4129.45, not including the registration fee; in subsequent years, however, you would pay only the registration fee, which decreases gradually from $91 to $21. (I mention this in case we have any NBA players wanting to buy cars here.)

1 comment

  1. McGehee »

    13 July 2008 · 11:38 pm

    I’d love to have a $17,000 Maserati.

    Me too. A $17,000 Yugo, not so much.

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