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What Is Louisiana Vehicle Tax?

by Jennifer Mueller

If you buy a car in Louisiana, you must pay state, parish and municipal sales taxes at your local office of motor vehicles. While dealers have the responsibility of collecting these taxes at the time of purchase, buying a car from a private individual means you're responsible for paying the tax yourself.

Louisiana Sales Tax

Whether you buy a new or used vehicle in Louisiana, you must pay 4 percent state sales and use tax on the total sales price of the vehicle. If you bought your car from a dealer, that sales price is the amount you actually paid including any shipping or dealer-prep fees, but less any trade-in allowances, discounts or rebates. If you live in another state but buy a car in Louisiana, you only pay the state sales and use tax on your purchase.

In addition to the state sales and use tax, Louisiana parishes and municipalities have sales and use taxes ranging from 1 to 5.5 percent. The parish or municipality tax that applies to your purchase depends on where you live, not where you buy your car. Therefore, the total sales and use tax for Louisiana residents is between 5 and 9.5 percent of the price you paid for the vehicle, depending on where you live.

For example, if you live in Baton Rouge and buy a new car for $18,000, you would pay a total of $1,260 in sales and use taxes: $720 to the state and $540 to your parish and municipality, since the tax rate for Baton Rouge is 3 percent.

Road Use Tax

If you move to Louisiana from another state, you must pay a road use tax when you register your vehicle. This tax is called a "use" tax because the sale of the vehicle didn't take place in Louisiana, but the rate is the same as the sales and use taxes assessed for in-state vehicle purchases: 4 percent state tax plus the tax rate in the parish and municipality where you live, for a total of 5 to 9.5 percent. This tax also applies if you are a Louisiana resident but purchase your car in another state and bring it back home.

However, unlike the sales tax, the use tax is based on the National Automobile Dealers Association loan value of your car, not the amount you paid for the car. Louisiana may value your car below fair market value if you can show proof that it has major mechanical or body damage. For example, suppose you live in Mississippi and get a great deal on a car, buying it for $8,000 even though it's worth $15,000. A few months later you move to Baton Rouge. When you register your car, you would owe $1,050 in taxes: $600 in state use tax and $450 in parish and municipality use tax.

Louisiana offers a credit to new residents who paid a similar tax in another state. This credit only applies to the state tax, not to any parish and municipality taxes. To return to the previous example, since Mississippi's tax rate is 4 percent, when you moved to Baton Rouge and registered your car, you would only owe the $450 in parish and municipality taxes.

Sales and Use Tax Exemptions

Although they may have tax-exempt status with regard to other purchases, nonprofit organizations -- including churches and charities -- are not exempt from sales and use taxes on the purchase or transfer of motor vehicles in Louisiana. However, anyone in the military who moves to Louisiana while on active duty is exempt from the use tax, provided he paid a similar tax in another state.

Interest and Penalties

Sales and use taxes must be paid by the 20th of the month after you purchased your car or brought it into the state. If you don't pay on time, Louisiana charges interest at a rate of 1.25 percent per month. For every 30 days the tax remains unpaid, Louisiana charges an additional penalty at the rate of 5 percent, up to a maximum of 25 percent in penalties.

About the Author

Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

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