Boston may offer electric car owners a break on excise taxes

The move would expand the perks for electric car ownership in Boston.
The move would expand the perks for electric car ownership in Boston. –Ditty_about_summer/Shutterstock.com

Boston City Council president Michelle Wu filed a petition on Wednesday to offer electric vehicle owners a break on their annual excise tax.

In the petition, Wu noted electric vehicles “have significant emissions benefits over conventional vehicles, because they produce zero tailpipe emissions.’’

If passed, the excise tax exemption would apply to any electric vehicle weighing less than 14,000 pounds with a battery of at least 4kWh that requires recharging from an external power source.

The measure would give the Commissioner of Boston’s Assessing Department the authority to regulate and enforce the new rule.

Wu argues that the proposal would help Boston make progress toward a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, as previously laid out in the Boston Climate Action Plan.

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“To get to our climate action goal, we have to be aggressive about reducing emission,’’ said Wu in a phone interview with Boston.com.

“In addition to the tools we have – like new garages with charging stations, better transit options, better cycling options – this is another tool to help incentivize EVs and to help us reduce emissions across cities,’’ said Wu.

Vehicle owners in Boston must pay an excise tax every year to city. The rates vary based on the vehicle’s value determined by the manufacturer’s list price.

Wu points out in the petition that exemptions for excise taxes are already extended to certain vehicles, including vehicles used for farming, owned by veterans and those registered to charitable organizations.

The proposal before the Boston City Council is the latest effort to expand the benefits of electric car ownership in the commonwealth.

Massachusetts currently offers a $2,500 rebate to consumers who purchase an electric vehicle. The state’s MOR-EV program issued nearly $2.5 million in rebates last year. According to the most recent information posted on the agency’s website, 239 rebates have been issued to date this year.

At the State House last month, the Transportation Committee approved a bill that would allow electric vehicles to access the Bay State’s high occupancy vehicle lanes on highways, expand access to charging stations, and authorize cities and towns to designate certain public parking spaces for exclusive electric vehicle use.

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A hearing on the petition is yet to be scheduled. Because the proposal affects the city’s tax revenue, Wu is not entirely sure how much support it will have from other councilors. But she said her colleagues are “committed to sustainability.’’

“Changing revenue sources is a more serious conversation, but it’s worth the investment in this case to incentivize EV ownership in Boston,’’ said Wu.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement provided to Boston.com from Councilor Wu.

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