The Massachusetts RMV stole my $750

This will not stand. This aggression will not stand, man.

So I went to switch over my license and my plates from the state of Vermont to my new state of Massachusetts today.

I purchased both cars privately, from residents of Massachusetts. The transactions we conducted both took place in the state of Vermont, since both sellers accommodated me because I didn’t have Vermont plates yet. We dutifully high-tailed it to the Vermont Registry of Motor Vehicles and paid our 6% sales tax on both cars, like good citizens.

Today, the Registry informed me that I owed 5% sales tax on both of those purchases because I purchased the cars from Mass. residents.

Apparently, I was supposed to go to the Mass. RMV (a state that I didn’t live in at the time) and pay 5% sales tax. Then I was supposed to go to the Vermont DMV and try and convince them that since I’d voluntarily paid 5% sales tax in the state of Massachusetts, that I only owed 1% sales tax in Vermont. Yeah. That’d work.

I was told I not only owed sales tax, but I also owed interest for two years, plus an additional penalty for not paying up front. I argued it until I was shaking, but to no avail. If I wanted to register the cars, I had to pay the tax.

My attorney wife — everybody should have an attorney wife. Seriously — immediately looked up a publication she remembered from the Mass. Department of RevenueTIR 03-1.

In section III, TIR 03-1 states (quite plainly for a government document, by the way):

A taxpayer who has paid sales tax to another U.S. state or territory on purchases of items for use, storage, or other consumption in Massachusetts, is allowed a credit against any Massachusetts use tax otherwise due if (1) the other state or territory allows a corresponding credit with respect to sales or use tax paid to Massachusetts on property brought into the other jurisdiction; (2) a sales or similar tax was actually paid to another reciprocal state or (in some cases) local jurisdiction; and (3) the tax paid to the other jurisdiction was legally due without any right to a refund or credit.[4] See G.L. c. 64I, § 7(c). If the amount paid the other jurisdiction is equal to or greater than 5%, no use tax is owed Massachusetts; where the tax is less than 5%, the tax due is the difference between the amount of Massachusetts use tax that would otherwise be owed and the amount of sales tax already paid. The tax due may not be reduced below zero. Note: There is no corresponding credit available for similar taxes that may have been paid to any foreign country or one of its political subdivisions.

A little further down the document, Vermont is listed as having reciprocity with the state of Massachusetts, plain as day.

Now, not only am I absolutely convinced that I’m right, but I’m also cheap, and I’ve been itching to go on a rant. If I don’t get my $750 bucks in taxes, interest and penalties back, I’m going to waste at least that in the time of the bureaucrats who stole my money.

I’ve contacted my state rep, whose legislative assistant assures me she’ll get back to me in 24 hours. If that turns into a dead end, I was reminded that I once appeared on Susan Warnick’s show as an automotive expert from the Boston Auto Show. I’m not even sure she’s still on television, but if she is, we may have some stuff to talk about.

I can only imagine that others like me have been similarly screwed by the DOR and the RMV. The total over the last 10 years has to run in the millions of dollars. I plan on getting some of that money back. If you’ve been similarly boned, give me a shout.


About Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald is an automotive writer, photographer and editor with credits in Hemmings Motor New, the Boston Globe, Forbes, the Washington Post, Esquire and
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4 Responses to The Massachusetts RMV stole my $750

  1. Ah, some things never change! Gosh I hope you get your money back, what a pain. Funny, I can tell that I’ve been away from Mass for a long time b/c I saw RMV and thought “shouldn’t that be DMV?” and also remember my mother talking about “Fear of The Registry” as part of living back home. Hang tough as them kids would say!

  2. dagwood says:

    hows that east coast ego workin now?


  3. Matt says:

    I have a similar situation…I bought a care last summer in Agawam Mass from a used car dealer. He wrote me a personal check and told me to cash it and use the money to pay my CT sales tax when I go to get my temp plates. I did that and went back to the dealer to pick up my car. I slapped on the temps and drive home to CT just over the border…literally. I now have moved to Framingham Ma and went to the registry to register in Mass and change to a Ma license. I got my license (paid with my debit card). Then I go to pay for my registration and he says I need cash. Now we are ready to go everything is good at this point….So I get back to the station after hunting down an ATM and this ugly broad is standing there with her arms crossed grilling me asking me if I picked the car up and drove it home to CT. I told her I thought I did but didn’t remember. Then she says that I would have to pay penalties and 6.5 percent to Ma even though I already paid CT sales tax with the dealers money (The dealer never told me to pay Ma sales tax!) How would I have ever known that I’m not a tax expert and the dealer should have a duty to know the laws in his or her business. Anyways..I got boned and am at my wits end here with the dealer who hung up the phone on me when I asked him why he didn’t tell me the correct way to do things. I talked to an attorney and she said that what the dealer did doesn’t even sound legal. What do you think?

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