State takes vehicle tax collections
Now tied to registration
by Bob Shiles Staff writer
LUMBERTON — The county’s tax administrator expects more revenue from motor vehicle taxes now that the state will handle the collections.
“We hope to see a substantial increase in the amount of motor vehicle taxes collected,” Cindy Lowry said. “How much that will be, I can’t say for sure. It will probably be at least a year before we see what the new system will and won’t do.”
Where it used to be that tags and taxes could be paid separately, the state’s new Tag & Tax Together program requires that vehicle tags and taxes be paid at the same time. To renew a vehicle registration, both the cost of tags and taxes due on the vehicle must be paid in full. The program takes effect Sunday.
The new program includes collection of only motor vehicle property taxes and does not affect other property, such as homes.
After receiving the entire payment, the state Department of Motor Vehicles will renew the vehicle registration and forward the property tax portion of the payment directly to the appropriate county’s tax office. Vehicle owners can pay the combined bill at their local license plate agency, online, or by mail.
“A motor vehicle registration will not be issued if taxes and the cost of tags are not paid in full when the registration is renewed,” Lowry said.
According to Lowry, the county’s low collection rate of motor vehicle taxes has over the years pushed the county’s overall property tax collection rate down. The motor vehicle tax collection rate for the fiscal year ending in June was 72.66 percent, she said, with the county’s overall tax collection rate at about 90 percent.
“If the percentage of motor vehicle taxes collected had been higher, the overall county tax collection rate for the past fiscal year would have been in the high 90 percent range,” Lowry said.
Lowry said that the county Tax Office still sets the values that motor vehicles are taxed.
According to Lowry, the cost to local governments for the state to collect taxes on an individual motor vehicle is $1.69, “plus any additional fees that may be imposed.” The $1.69 is a shared cost between the county and the municipality in which the vehicle is registered. If the vehicle registration address is not located within any municipal limits, the county pays the entire $1.69, Lowry said.
According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, vehicle owners with a “9” (September) sticker on their license tag are due to pay the combined bill in September. Combined payments will also be due on vehicles purchased on or after Sept. 1 unless the owner elects not to pay the property tax at the point of sale. If the tax is not paid at the point of sale, the vehicle owner will receive a limited registration plate that expires 60 days after the vehicle is titled.
For leased vehicles, the person purchasing the license plate will receive the combined bill. Leasing companies will need to make arrangements with the customer as to how they want to collect fees and taxes.
The Department of Motor Vehicles website features frequently asked questions about the combined billing program and contact information for county revenue offices across the state. A Spanish version of the questions has also been posted and the department has produced a video to help explain the new program.
Lowry said that she has put together a brochure that she hopes will provide answers to questions local residents have about the new program.
“I have been giving out the brochures throughout the county at community organizations, churches and wherever I can,” she said. “This is a learning process for everybody.”
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