DC Excise Tax On A Used Car: Fair or Legal?

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Topic: DC Excise Tax On A Used Car: Fair or Legal?

Real Estate November 15, 2012 at 11:50 am

DC Excise Tax On A Used Car: Fair or Legal?

My parents recently gifted my wife and me their old car (it was registered out of state). I went to the DMV yesterday to get it inspected, tagged, registered, and have the title changed.  In addition to all those charges, I was also charged a 6% excise tax on the value of the car.  I politely argued with the DMV agent about the tax charge (you can guess how that went), who exlained that the ONLY ways you don’t have to pay the excise tax is if the car was transferred between parent and child or between spouses AND it was already registered in the District.  It seems like a racket to me. But is it a legal racket?  Anybody else have experience with this?  Was the DMV’s explanation correct?

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It has always been that way. And yes, it is legal.

When I moved here my parents had to transfer the car to my name in Maryland (small fee) and then i registered in D.C. to avoid the tax. All the information was availble online so I knew about it beforehand.

Same here, transferred car to me in VA, and then registered in DC. Just the way DC does it. In VA, they charge you ~1.5% a year, in DC, you pay 6% upfront. Such is life.

Yeah, I just went through the exact same thing.  I double checked the DC Code in advance, and it’s definitely in there – unless it is already registered in DC, they will charge you 6% of FMV, even if it was a family gift. 

Adding my name to the list. Same thing happened to me. Unfortunately, that’s the law!


Another workaround is to jointly title the car with the original owner (one of your parents) and one of the new owners (you) and then to re-title the car a month or so later where you drop the original owner off the title. Then you’re free to add anyone else (your wife, etc) once it’s just you on the title. If you’re doing it on a $1,500 car, it’s cheaper to pay the 6% than to re-register the car a few times, but if it’s some $15,000 or $25,000 car, this is far less expensive. 
Or, just add yourselves to the title and do the transfer in whatever state the car is coming from, and re-plate it here in DC once you already own it in the other state.

OP here.  Lesson learned.  I hope others can learn from my not-all-that-costly (car wasn’t worth too much) but still annoying mistake.

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