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Rhode Island Motor Vehicle Excise FAQs

All motor vehicles registered in your name will be taxed each year by the city or town listed by you with the Registry of Motor Vehicles at which the vehicle will be kept.  This tax is referred to as the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax and that tax is assessed in accordance with Title 44, Chapter 34 of the General Laws of the State of Rhode Island.

How is this tax assessed?

Motor vehicles are taxed in the year next following the year of registration.  For example, any motor vehicles registered in your name during any portion of the year 2020 would be taxed in the year 2021.

I did not own the car for the full year, am I still taxed?

The tax is prorated to the number of days the vehicle was registered for each year.  For example if your car was registered from January 1 to January 10, 2020; you will receive a tax bill prorated to 10 days in the following year 2021.

What if my car was sold, disposed of or stolen?

The tax will continue to be assessed and billed for each year the motor vehicle was registered.  If your vehicle was stolen, or if you disposed of or sold the motor vehicle but you did not immediately return the plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and cancel the registration, the tax will continue to be assessed and billed until the registration is canceled or expires.

Why is there a tax if I moved from the state?

If you move from the state, you must cancel your registration and return your plates to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.  Otherwise, the tax and penalty will continue to be assessed until the registration is canceled or expires.

How can I be taxed by this city/town for a time when I did not live there?

The tax is based on the registration address and not your current residence address in a city or town.  If you moved to another city or town but did not notify the Registry of your change of address the tax will continue to be assessed by the city or town listed on the motor vehicle registration even though you no longer live there.

I never received a bill, so why should I have to pay the tax?

You will not be excused from paying the tax or penalty because you failed to receive a tax bill. Registration of a motor vehicle places you on notice that a tax will be assessed.  If you do not receive a bill for the tax year you have a duty to inquire with the tax collector. “Failure of the tax collector to send, or by the taxpayer to receive, a bill shall not excuse the nonpayment of the tax or affect its validity or any proceedings for the collection thereof.” R. I. Gen. Laws §44-34-3(e).

I was able to register my car, so how could this tax still be due?

Although state law prohibits anyone from registering a vehicle with outstanding motor vehicle taxes due, the Registry of  Motor Vehicles is not able to identify and match all persons owing such taxes.  It is not unusual for persons owing motor vehicle taxes to be able to register a vehicle.  The fact that you were able to register a vehicle with this tax being due is not proof of payment of these taxes.

NOTICE:  The above FAQs are only intended to provide general information on R.I. motor vehicle excise taxes.  This information is not legal advice and must not be relied upon as such.  You should consult with your own attorney regarding your particular situation.