Thanks, West Tisbury, but fond memories fade

Thanks, West Tisbury, but fond memories fade

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To the Editor:

I lived on the Vineyard at various times since 1990, and have always found the general populace to be welcoming and low key. I moved from West Tisbury to Los Angeles in March of 2005, bidding a fond farewell to an Island I had grown to love and call my home. Recently, I relocated to Boston and was faced with the mundane task of registering my car in Massachusetts. At the Registry of Motor Vehicles, I was told that I owed the town of West Tisbury excise tax for the years of 2005 and 2006. A total of $800.35, to be exact. I would not be able to register my car, until this was cleared up.

Okay, I thought, there has obviously been some confusion and a mix-up, of sorts. So, after waiting in line for two hours at a jail-like registry, I left and resolved to call the West Tisbury Tax Collector. I called and spoke with Brent Taylor. I attempted to explain that I had moved and that my car had been registered in California for a majority of the time that they were assessing me the excise taxes.

She was rude and abrupt and clearly was not sympathetic. When I asked if I might speak with her supervisor, she haughtily proclaimed, “I am an elected official. The townspeople of West Tisbury are my supervisors.” Er, okay, easy does it, lady. In any event, I eventually got the woman to calm down a bit and managed to be transferred to Jennifer Rand, town administrator, who was lovely, yet inflexible. I was told that because I hadn’t filed an abatement within three years, that nothing could be done.

This makes no sense whatsoever. I didn’t even know that I was being charged these taxes until I went to register my car this past Friday. I know that I probably just sound like some stupid whiner, but it really bugs me. Also, the kicker was that when I tried to pay them with either a credit card or debit card, I was informed that I would have to send a cashier’s check or money order. Really? Rip me off and then make it difficult for me to pay the funds that you are clearly not entitled to?

Thanks, West Tisbury, my fond memories are rapidly fading.

John Manning



  1. Motor Vehicle excise bills are issued from the recorded information by the Registry of Motor vehicles; the data does not come from the town that payment is made to. The fact that you received the bills for the years 2005 and 2006 would seem to indicate that you did not clean things up with the Registry before you left the island for sunny California? The state laws for excise tax are very inflexible including the provisions for getting an abatement and how scofflaws must make payment. Now that you are back in the state, I suggest you contact your state elected officials to change the draconian laws regarding excise taxes. If the tax collector deviates from the law he/she would in fact be in violation and subject to penalties. Blaming the messenger reflects very poorly on you. If there was a legal way for you to be relieved of you obligation to pay, I’m sure you would have been provided that information.

  2. I have been living at one address for many years and registered my vehicles at the same address. If I remember correctly, within 30 days of leaving a state you need to surrender the plates and register your vehicle in the state you are now living in. But CA has tighter emission control and much higher fees for registering your vehicle. So, you are basically playing the system, suck it up and pay. Lesson learned, keep track of your bills!

  3. Dear John,

    If you knew Brent you would know that she doesn’t adventure far from WT. I am sure she rather buy kitty litter for her white cats then go to OB! I have done many transactions with the RMV, if you do not have someone to take your plates to the RMV in MA then the plates will not be cancelled which will generate the yearly excise tax until the plates expire.

  4. Why in the world would you come back to MA. Ok California isn’t much better but when you go to a red state everything becomes user friendly and the workers at the DMV and other state offices actually believe you are paying for them with your taxes. In MA they are doing you a favor. All they have to do is get validation your vehicle was registered in California for that time period. But why should they?