MAINE REVENUE SERVICES
PROPERTY TAX DIVISION
PROPERTY TAX BULLETIN NO. 13


MOTOR VEHICLE EXCISE TAX & PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX

REFERENCE:  36 M.R.S. §§ 1481 through 1491

July 17, 2014; replaces July, 2010 revision.

1.   In General.  The motor vehicle excise tax is an annual tax imposed for the privilege of operating a vehicle over the public highway.  This bulletin is concerned principally with the applicability of motor vehicle excise tax on automobiles, trucks, truck tractors, motorcycles and motorized homes. 

      Mobile homes, camper trailers, truck campers and aircraft may be subject to the excise tax, but since they are subject to different rates and to certain special provisions than those applying to motor vehicles, they are not covered by this bulletin.  Detailed information about the excise tax as applied to mobile homes, camp trailers and truck campers will be found in Property Tax Bulletin No. 6.  Information about the excise tax as applied to aircraft may be obtained from Maine Revenue Services, Property Tax Division.

      As a rule, a registered motor vehicle owned by a person on April 1 and on which an excise tax was paid is exempt from property taxes.  The assessing of motor vehicles as personal property is discussed in Section 6.

      An unregistered motor vehicle owned by a person on April 1 for which an excise tax has not been paid before property taxes are committed is subject to the property tax, unless payment of the excise tax occurs between April 1 and the date of property tax commitment.

      The Secretary of State provides municipal excise tax collectors with standard vehicle registration forms for the collection of excise.

2.   Definitions

A.  Maker's list price.  "Maker's list price," in the case of vehicles manufactured in the United States, means the retail price at the point of manufacture less the federal manufacturer's tax. For vehicles manufactured outside the United States, "maker's list price" means the retail price at the nearest port of entry. In either case, "maker's list price" also includes the manufacturer's suggested retail price of all accessories and equipment which are part of the vehicle at the time the excise tax is paid.

B.   Motor vehicle.  "Motor vehicle" means any self-propelled vehicle not operated exclusively on tracks, including motorcycles, but not including aircraft. "Motor vehicle" does not include any vehicle prohibited by law from operating on the public highways. "Motor vehicle" does not include any snowmobile as defined in 12 M.R.S., § 13001.

C.  Vehicle.  "Vehicle" means a motor vehicle, mobile home, camper trailer, heavier-than-air aircraft or lighter-than-air aircraft. "Vehicle" does not include a snowmobile as defined in 12 M.R.S., § 13001.

D.  Automobile.  "Automobile" means a motor vehicle, including a motorized home but not including a stock race car, designed for the conveyance of passengers with a seating capacity of not more than 14 persons.

E.   Purchase price.  "Purchase price" means the actual price paid, including any trade-in value applied to the cost of purchasing the vehicle.

3.   The Motor Vehicle Excise Tax.

A.  When applicable.  The excise tax on motor vehicles is a tax "for the privilege of operating a motor vehicle upon the public ways" and thus applies where the owner of the motor vehicle intends to register it for use on the public ways during the year.

B.  Where Excise Tax is Payable:

(1)  If a motor vehicle is owned by an individual resident of the state, the excise tax must be paid in the place where the owner resides.

(2)  If a motor vehicle is owned by a nonresident individual, the excise tax must be paid in the place where the owner is temporarily or occasionally residing; or, if there is no such residing place, to the state (36 M.R.S. §1484(3-B)).

(3)  If a motor vehicle is owned by a corporation or a partnership, the excise tax is paid in the following manner.

a.   A corporation or partnership other than one described in sub-paragraph (b) below, must pay excise tax to the municipality in which the registered or main office of that organization is located, except that if the organization has an additional permanent place of business where motor vehicles are customarily kept, the tax on these vehicles must be paid to the municipality where such permanent place of business is located.  The temporary location of an office and the stationing of vehicles in connection with a construction project lasting less than 24 months is not considered a permanent place of business.  In the case of a foreign corporation or partnership not maintaining a place of business within the state, the excise tax must be paid to the state.

b.   A corporation described in 35 M.R.S., § 2301 (public utilities), must pay excise taxes to the municipality in which the registered or main office of that organization is located.

Notwithstanding the preceding three provisions, if a motor vehicle is leased for a period of one month or longer, the excise tax must be paid where it would be paid if the lessee were the owner.  (36 M.R.S. § 1484(3)(D)).

C.  Tax Rate.  The excise tax rates on motor vehicles are expressed as 'mills,' meaning the dollars in tax assessed per $1,000 of maker's list price or manufacturers suggested retail price ("MSRP").  Thus, 24 mills would equal $24 of tax for each $1,000 of MSRP.  Expressed as a decimal, 24 mills is equal to .024, 17 ½ mills is expressed as .0175, etc. 

(1)  Motor vehicle excise tax rates are as follows: 24 mills on each dollar of the MSRP for the first or current year of model; 17½ mills for the second year; 13½ mills for the third year; 10 mills for the fourth year; 6½ mills for the fifth year; and 4 mills for the sixth and following years. 

In the phrase 'first or current year of model', first refers to the first year of registration.  For instance, if a 2015 model year vehicle is being registered for the first time during the registration year, the first year tax rate applies (24 mills).  Current refers to a model year vehicle being registered for the first time in the same registration year as the model, such as a 2014 model being registered for the first time in 2014 (see examples below).

(2)  There is a minimum tax of $5 for a motor vehicle other than a bicycle with motor attached, $2.50 for a bicycle with motor attached, $15 for a camper trailer other than a tent trailer and $5 for a tent trailer. The excise tax on a stock race car is $5.

(3)  For motor vehicles, only ½ of the tax will apply during the last four months of the registration year, except that the excise tax on a farm truck, as defined in Title 29-A, section 505, subsection 1, with two or three axles that is used primarily for transportation of agricultural produce grown by the owner on the owner's farm is ½ the annual amount during the last six months of the registration year.  If the registration is new, there is no ½ rate available.  All new registration fees are for 12 months.

(4)  During the last four months of the registration year, the minimum tax is $2.50 for a motor vehicle other than a bicycle with motor attached, $1.25 for a bicycle with motor attached, $7.50 for a camper trailer other than a tent trailer, $2.50 for a tent trailer, and $2.50 for a stock car.

(5)  For a brand new 2013 model vehicle registered for the first time in 2014, the second year rate applies because the vehicle is no longer the current model.

(6)  During 2014, a 2014 model vehicle will be charged the first year rate, even after the 2015 models have become available.

(7)  If an excise tax was paid for the previous registration year by the same person on the same vehicle, the excise tax for the current registration year is computed as if the vehicle were in its next year of model.  A 2014 vehicle which was registered in 2013 will be taxed at the second year rate in 2014, the third year rate in 2015 and so on, as long as the person who registered it in 2013 continues to own it.  If the owner sells it to a new owner who first registers it in 2014 or later, it will be taxed at the first year rate in 2014, the second year rate in 2015, and so on.

D.  Credit for Transfers.  Credit for transfers is provided for as follows:

(1)  Credits.  An owner or lessee (including the surviving spouse of that owner/lessee) who has paid the excise or property tax for a vehicle may be entitled to a credit for taxes paid if the vehicle is sold or lost.  To qualify, the vehicle must have been transferred, lost by fire, theft or accident, totally junked or abandoned in the same registration year.  If qualified, the owner is entitled to a credit against the tax on another vehicle, up to the maximum amount of the tax previously paid in that year.  The credit applies regardless of the number of transfers during the registration year.

(2)  For each transfer made in the same registration year, the owner or lessee shall pay $3.00 to the municipality in which the excise tax is payable.

(3)  During the last four months of the registration year, a credit shall not exceed ½ of the maximum amount of the tax previously paid in that registration year for any one vehicle.

(4)  A municipality may by ordinance refund a portion of the excise tax paid on leased special mobile equipment as defined under 29-A M.R.S., § 101(70), if the person who paid the excise tax provides evidence that the registration was voluntarily surrendered and cancelled under 29-A M.R.S., § 410.  The amount of a refund must be the excise tax paid prorated based on the number of full months remaining in the year of the cancelled registration.

(5)  Under Maine law, there is no credit allowed if an owner retains a discontinued vehicle unless that vehicle is totally lost by fire, theft or accident or it is totally junked or abandoned.

(6)  Generally, a credit is given only when a vehicle owner or lessee transfers the registration of an original vehicle to a replacement vehicle.  Credit may not be transferred to a new registration when the date of expiration of the new registration exceeds the expiration date of the original registration.  

(7)  Where an owner or lessee changes residence and later replaces a vehicle, the excise tax collector must allow a credit for the tax paid to the town in which the original tax was paid.

(8)  Credit for excise tax paid on a motor vehicle may be allowed for aircraft, mobile homes and camp trailers.

E.   Examples of Continuous Credit.

(1)  John Doe registers a 2014 model automobile with a MSRP of $22,900 in January 2014 for a new registration.  The first year rate of 24 mills produces a tax of (22,900 x .024) $549.60:  Collector issues receipt #123 for $549.60.

Receipt #123
Amount of tax             $549.60

(2)  John Doe trades for another 2014 model automobile with a MSRP of $24,590.  The tax is (.024 x $24,590) $590.16.  Credit of $549.60, the amount of tax paid for the first vehicle, is extended.  Collector issues receipt #132.

Receipt #132 issued
Amount of Tax            $590.16
Rec. No. 123
Credit                          (549.60)
Sub-Total                      $ 40.56
Transfer Fee                       3.00
Excise Tax Bal.             $ 44.56

(3)  John Doe wrecks his second automobile in July 2014 and replaces the second vehicle with a third, a 2002 model, $16,900 MSRP.  The sixth year tax rate of 4 mills applies; the tax for the third vehicle is ($16,900 x .004=) $67.60.  Collector issues receipt #185.

Receipt #185
Amount of Tax             $ 67.60
Rec. No. 132
Credit                          (590.16)
Sub-Total Cr. Bal.         (522.56)
Transfer Fee                       3.00
Excise Tax Bal.            $    3.00
(The only out of pocket expense is payment of the $3.00 transfer fee)

(4)  John Doe's third car is sold in October.  A fourth vehicle, a $26,700, 2014 model is excised at ½ rate being within four months of the expiration date of the registration.  The tax, at 1st year rate is (26,700 x .024 ÷ 2) $320.40.  Credit balance available within last four months of registration year is (590.16 ÷ 2) $295.08.  Collector issues receipt #212.

Receipt #212
Amount of Tax (½)      $320.40
Rec. No. 132
Credit   (½)                 (295.08)
Sub-Total                      $ 25.32
Transfer Fee                       3.00
Excise Tax Bal.             $ 28.32

The minimum tax of $5.00, which applies to automobiles, does not apply to the balance due on a transfer.  Existing credits may exceed the tax on the latest acquired automobile in which only the $3.00 transfer fee is due from the taxpayer.

F.   Price to be Used in Calculating Tax.

      Maker's list price also called MSRP. The statute requires, except for certain commercial vehicles, that the MSRP be used as the basis of the excise tax.  The MSRP is defined, in the case of vehicles manufactured in the United States, to mean the retail price at the point of manufacture less the federal manufacturer's tax, if any.  The MSRP, in the case of vehicles manufactured outside the United States, means the retail price at the nearest port of entry.  In either case, MSRP includes the manufacturer's suggested retail price of all accessories and equipment (except the value of adaptive equipment that is installed on a motor vehicle to make that vehicle accessible or operable by a disabled person) which is a part of the vehicle at the time the excise tax is paid.

(1)  Whenever a new vehicle is to be registered the owner or lessee must provide the original window sticker (Monroney Label) or a copy of the original dealer's invoice which details the vehicle and all accessory equipment.  In the case of registration renewal, attention should be paid to the maker's list price which was applied the previous year.

(2)  Maine Revenue Services will provide to vehicle excise tax collectors information consisting of the MSRP of a vehicle, the source from which the MSRP may be obtained or the manner in which it is determined.  Efforts should be made to obtain full details of such units to assure determination of full value.

(3)  Self-propelled contractor's equipment may present a problem where new equipment is mounted on an old chassis or vice versa. In such instances it is suggested that the two elements of value making up the vehicle be computed separately according to maker's list price new, and that separate rates be applied to the two elements appropriate to the model year of each.  Once the tax on each element is determined, the results should be added together and the total accepted as the vehicle tax.  In 2014, for example, a 2010 concrete mixer with a maker's list price of $24,000 is mounted on a 2014 Mack truck with a maker's list price of $97,000.  The $24,000 element, being five years old, is subject to the fifth year rate, 6 ½ mills, to produce a tax of $156 (0.0065 x $24,000).  By like method, the $97,000 Mack cab and chassis sold in 2014 will be subject to the first year rate of 24 mills to provide a tax of $2,328 (0.024 x $97,000).  By adding the result of the two computations, a tax of $2,484 ($156 + $2,328) is calculated.

(4)  The creation of special purpose vehicles such as dune buggies creates another type of problem.  Generally speaking, a new body is of greater value than a used chassis to which the body is added.  When there is no identifying model year of the more valuable component, excise tax collectors should use the first year rate for the first year the vehicle is excised.

G.  Certain commercial vehicles.  Beginning July 1, 1996 the annual excise tax on commercial vehicles over 26,000 pounds and special mobile equipment is based on the initial purchase price of the commercial vehicle including accessories and equipment installed on that vehicle in the original year of title for commercial vehicles manufactured in model year 1996 and later.  Commercial vehicles manufactured prior to model year 1996 are based on the manufacturer's list price.

(1)  Whenever a 1996 or later model commercial vehicle over 26,000 pounds or special mobile equipment is to be registered the collector should request a copy of the dealer's invoice or owner's bill of sale which details the vehicle and all accessory equipment.  In the case of registration renewal or transfer, attention should be paid to the original purchase price which was charged for that vehicle.

(2)  The state Bureau of Motor Vehicles must establish procedures for municipalities to report and claim reimbursement for any revenue loss resulting from the use of a vehicle's initial purchase price instead of the manufacturer's list price for that vehicle.  Vehicles that are reconstructed using glider kits (see paragraph I below) do not qualify for reimbursement from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

H.  Exemptions.  The following are exempt from the motor vehicle excise tax:

(1)  State vehicles. Vehicles owned by this state, county, municipality or other political subdivisions of the state;

(2)  Driver education. Motor vehicles registered by municipalities for use in driver education in the secondary schools or by private secondary schools for use in driver education in those schools;

(3)  Volunteer fire departments. Motor vehicles owned by volunteer fire departments;

(4)  Dealers or manufacturers. Vehicles owned by registered dealers or manufacturers of the vehicles that are held solely for demonstration and sale and constitute stock in trade;

(5)  Transporter registration. Vehicles to be lawfully operated on transporter registration certificates;

(6)  Railroads. Vehicles owned by railroad companies that pay an excise tax to the state;

(7)  Benevolent and charitable institutions. Vehicles owned and used solely for their own purposes by benevolent and charitable institutions that are incorporated by this state;

(8)  Literary and scientific institutions. Vehicles owned and used solely for their own purposes by literary and scientific institutions;

(9)  Religious societies. Vehicles owned and used solely for their own purposes by houses of religious worship or religious societies;

(10) Certain veterans. Specially adapted automobiles owned by blind or amputee veterans who are granted free registration of those vehicles by the Secretary of State under 29-A M.R.S., § 523(1);

(11) Adaptive equipment. Adaptive equipment installed on a motor vehicle owned by a disabled person or the family of a disabled person to make that vehicle operable or accessible by a disabled person; and

(12) Active military stationed in Maine. Vehicles owned by a person, resident or non-resident, on active duty serving in the Armed Forces of the United States who is permanently stationed at a military or naval post, station or base in the state.  For purposes of this subsection, "a person on active duty serving in the Armed Forces of the United States" does not include a member of the National Guard or the Reserves of the United States Armed Forces.

I.    Prepackaged "Glider" Kits.  For trucks or truck tractors registered for more than 26,000 pounds that have been reconstructed using a prepackaged kit that may include a frame, front axle or body but does not include a power train or engine and for which a new certificate of title is required to be issued, the amount of excise tax due is based on the maker's list price of the prepackaged kit.  These glider kits do not qualify for reimbursement by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for tax on the difference between MSRP and purchase price.

4.   Personal Property Taxation of Motor Vehicles.

      A motor vehicle which acquires a tax situs within Maine is subject to a personal property tax unless an excise tax was paid.  If the personal property tax on a vehicle was paid and the owner later wishes to register the vehicle, the property tax paid must be allowed as a credit on the excise tax.

A.  Where Motor Vehicles are Taxable.

(1)  If a motor vehicle with a Maine personal property tax situs on April 1 is owned by an individual resident, resident partnership or domestic corporation the vehicle is taxable in the place where the owner resides on April 1.


(2)  If a motor vehicle with a Maine personal property tax situs on April 1 is owned by a nonresident individual, nonresident partnership or foreign corporation the vehicle is taxable in the place where located on April 1.

(3)  Maine law, 36 M.R.S., § 603(9), provides an exception to where the motor vehicles of certain domestic corporations are taxable.  The vehicles of manufacturing, smelting, agricultural and stock raising corporations and corporations organized for the purpose of buying, selling and leasing real estate are taxable where situated.  A further exception is that vehicles owned, leased or otherwise subject to possessory control of a mining company are taxable where the mine is located.

B.  Description.  A motor vehicle assessed as personal property should be identified by make, model, year and serial number (if possible).  This will permit documentary proof that the property tax was paid on the vehicle should subsequent registration be desired.

C.  Valuation.  When assessed for personal property taxes, motor vehicles should be valued in the same manner as all other property, on the basis of "just value". 

D.  Exemptions.  Personal property tax exemptions provided in 36 M.R.S. §§ 651-655 may also apply to motor vehicles being assessed as personal property.

NOTE:  This bulletin is intended solely as advice to assist persons in determining, exercising or complying with their legal rights, duties or privileges.  If further information is needed, contact the Property Tax Division of Maine Revenue Services.

MAINE REVENUE SERVICES
PROPERTY TAX DIVISION
PO BOX 9106
AUGUSTA, MAINE 04332-9106
TEL: (207) 624-5600

The Department of Administrative and Financial Services does not discriminate on the basis of disability in admission to, access to, or operation of its programs, services or activities.  This material can be made available in alternate formats by contacting the Department's ADA Coordinator at (207) 624-8288(voice) or V/TTY: 7-1-1.

(Published under Appropriation No. 1037.1)


AUTHORIZED PRICE SOURCE PUBLICATION LIST

The following publications are used and authorized by Maine Revenue Services as sources which satisfy the requirement of "Maker's List Price," under 36 M.R.S., § 1482(4).

VEHICLE TYPE/SOURCE

PASSENGER VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS

Automobile Invoice Service                                                

New Car Cost Guide
P.O. Box 758
Gainesville, GA  30503
1-800-554-1026

N.A.D.A. Official Used Car                                                                                  

N.A.D.A. Used Car Guide
8400 Westpark Drive
McLean, VA  22102
1-800-544-6232

Red Book                                                                                               

Price Digests
Penton Media, Inc
PO Box 12901
Overland Park, KS  66282-2901
1-800-654-6776

MEDIUM AND HEAVY ROAD TRUCKS

Truck Blue Book                                                                                    

Penton Media, Inc
PO Box 12901
Overland Park, KS  66282-2901
1-800-654-6776

EQUIPMENT

Green Guide of Equip. New/Used values                                              

Equipment Watch
1735 Technology Drive Suite 410
San Jose, CA  95110
1-800-669-3282

INDUSTRIAL TRACTORS & EQUIPMENT

Green Guide (Volumes 1 & 2) set                                                         

Equipment Watch
1735 Technology Drive Suite 410
San Jose, CA  95110
1-800-669-3282

Green Guide Older Equipment Values (11-20 years old)                      

Equipment Watch
(Address same as above)

Green Guide Lift Trucks                                                                        

Equipment Watch
(Address same as above)

FARM TRACTORS AND EQUIPMENT

National Farm Tractor & Implement Blue Book                                    

Price Digests
PO Box 12901
Overland Park, KS  66282
1-800-654-6776

RECREATIONAL VEHICLES-MOTOR HOMES-CAMPER TRAILERS, ETC.

N.A.D.A. Recreational Vehicle Guide                                                   

N.A.D.A. Recreational Appraisal Guide
PO Box 7800
Costa Mesa, CA  92628
1-800-966-6232

MOTORCYCLES/MOPEDS

N.A.D.A. Motorcycle-Snowmobile-ATV-Personal Watercraft Appraisal Guide     

N.A.D.A. Appraisal Guide
PO Box 7800
Costa Mesa, CA  92628
1-800-966-6232