massachusetts: determined to tax you one way or another

So...my good friend Steve gave me a car. Yes, gave - as in free, gratis, no cost, not a sale. Thus, according to every law regarding sales tax, the value of this car is not taxable because I did not buy it. My good friend wanted to give me this car.

In case you're not aware of how sales tax works here in Massachusetts, you can "buy" a car for $1.00 and have to pay 5% sales tax on whatever the Commonwealth declares the car is actually worth. So, if you buy a 1988 p.o.s. that smells like old liverwurst and has rust through the floor and if MA says that car is worth $1,000 you're gonna pay $50 in sales tax.

Even rabid tax-drooling lawmakers know that a gift is a gift and you can't assess sales tax on the value of the item given; if they could do that, Massachusetts would soon be taxing those wonderful art projects your kid brings home from school on Mother's and Father's Day (oh wait; they are! Let's see, little Johnny's coffee-can pencil holder is worth...$200! Please fork over $10 in taxes immediately, payable to your school.) Anyway, they know they can't tax a gift, and it drives them insane. How, oh how, to feel better and get something for nothing???

I know! A fee! We'll institute a fee on every car given as a gift - but only if they register it! That way, we're not actually taxing the gift, but just adding a fee at registration. If you don't register the car, you'll never pay it! Sure, that makes us feel better!

It's true. In order to register this gift car, I have to pay a $25 - and this is verbatim - "Sales Tax Exemption Fee for Gift."

In order to NOT have to pay sales tax, I have to pay a "fee."

This can also be stated as: because Massachusetts can't find a legal way to tax me for this car, they're going to assess me a fee that will replace the sales tax. True, the fee is less than the sales tax would be (I think - the gift car is a 1994 Ford Escort with 109K+ miles on it) but it is, essentially, JUST ANOTHER TAX.

I hate Massachusetts sometimes. I really do. I cannot wait to leave, which will happen when my son leaves home. Until that time, I have to stay here because of custody issues. Or I would be planning my escape right now, instead of just dreaming about it nine years down the road.

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