According to a Supreme Judicial Court ruling in April, 1996 and subsequent Registry of Motor Vehicle regulations, cities and towns must issue a final notice to the taxpayer stating that they plan to ask the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to prohibit renewal of his/her registration until the excise bill is settled. If the notice goes unanswered, such a request will be made. The Registrar may then prevent renewal of the vehicle registration along with the owner's driver's license until receiving notice that the bill has been paid.
If a taxpayer finds him/herself in this situation and has been refused renewal of a registration or license, he/she may remedy the matter by making full payment on the bill, including all fees and penalties, which will include a $20 release fee. Once the bill has been paid, the municipality will give the motorist a receipt to show the Registry of Motor Vehicles as proof of payment. At this point he or she can re-register the vehicle. Although the local tax collectors do notify the Registrar electronically that the matter has been resolved, they do so only periodically, causing a delay. This is why it is so important to retain one's receipt.
Vehicle owners should be aware of the fact that the excise tax law (M.G.L. c. 60A) gives tax collectors six years from the date a bill is issued to collect an excise tax bill. However, under Registry regulations, tax collectors have two years from the date of issuance of an excise bill to notify the Registry of nonpayment. The Registry will then electronically mark the driver's record for non-renewal until the excise is paid. If the tax record does indicate a history of nonpayment, the tax collectors can also mark the driver's record and institute proceedings to collect for as many years back (in other words, beyond six) as necessary.