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If you own a car you're gonna get an excise tax bill--it's a pain to pay, but at least you expect it's correct. Not so fast! We found thousands of Massachusetts drivers were overcharged. The state knows it, but they don't want to talk about it. But Hank does! Hank Investigates.
When Mike Pungitore of Hingham got the excise bill for his van,
Mike Pungitore, Car Owner: "I opened it up and I was like, you gotta be kidding me!"
He knew it was way too high.
Mike Pungitore: "It's a shock when you first get it because your heart drops and you're like--where am I going to come up with a grand"
He complained to his town tax collector, so they had him fill out this application to reduce his bill.
Eventually the Registry of Motor Vehicles sent this letter admitting:
"The registry's records were in error." The Registry's records were in error? Yup.
Mike Pungitore: "It's frustrating, it really is."
As a result, Mike's tax bill was lowered by hundreds of dollars!
And our investigation discovered the registry knows of thousands of errors like that! Turns out the database they use to look up the value of your new car is sometimes outdated.
As the RMV admitted, "… as a result some vehicle owners receive an incorrect valuation." In plain English, that means, some vehicle owners are getting overcharged for excise tax. And the Registry knows it.
Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG: "They need to insure that every bill sent out is correct."
Hank: "And we know now they're not."
Deirdre Cummings: "It's not acceptable. They shouldn't accept it, and the public ought not to accept it."
When other car owners did complain--their bills were lowered, too! In fact we found 2200 bills were changed this year, each with the same explanation:
"The registry's records are in error..."
Deirdre: "It should not be happening."
Of course we wanted an on camera interview with the RMV but they said no.
"...the Registrar," they emailed. "...wants to decline doing an interview on this topic for both herself and anyone else in the agency."
When we called to push them they told us, "We're not sure why you keep asking about this, because this happens every year."
Every year? Excise tax bills have been wrong for years? Yup.
And our investigation found the Registry is not going to tell you. They leave it up to car owners to catch the mistakes.
Deirdre: "Somebody needs to go back and solve the problem."
Did you pay an inflated bill? There's only one way to prevent it.
Mike Pungitore: "Keep your eyes open, keep your eyes open not just on the road, but on your excise tax bill, too.
If you think you were overcharged here's a link to information on how you can appeal your excise tax bill:
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