08/14/11 — Tax reval causing car tax confusion

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Tax reval causing car tax confusion

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 14, 2011 1:50 AM

The reduction in the county's property tax rate from 76.4 cents to 70.25 cents per $100 worth of value appears to be creating some confusion when it comes to county vehicle taxes.

The tax rate for vehicles is the same as that used for property, and the current rate of 70.25 cents was adopted by county commissioners when they approved the new county budget in June.

The difference is that unlike property tax bills, which are all mailed out at the same time, the vehicle tax is based on the vehicle's tag renewal cycle.

"It is based on the fiscal year just like the annual (property) bills are," said Wayne County Tax Administrator David Ward. "What happens, licensed vehicles are a separate class of property simply because your bill is based on your renewal cycle -- either when you got a new tag issued or tag renewed."

There is normally a three-month lag between the time tags are renewed and the owners receive the tax bill. For any new tags or renewals in July, the tax office will receive the information from the state Division of Motor Vehicles in September and the bill will be sent out in October.

For any new tags or renewals issued prior to July 1, the old rate of 76.4 cents will be used because that was the rate in effect when the tags were renewed.

"Values, we have a company that provides the values," Ward said. "As a matter of fact, to the best of my knowledge they provide it for all 100 counties. It is based, say it is a 2005 model, they take the information of that vehicle and they then price it. They can tell from the VIN (vehicle identification number) what the vehicle is and its features.

"They price it as if it is in average condition with average mileage and that value does go back to Jan. 1 of the year that we bill that bill. It is average condition with average mileage because we don't know what kind of condition your car is in."

State law requires that the values be based on retail, not wholesale, trade-in or loan values, he said.

However, the values can be appealed.

"You can actually go to a dealership, or a dealer and get them to give you an estimate of value, retail value, of that car as of Jan. 1," he said. "Bring that in to us and we will consider that adjustment. Let's say you have high mileage. Bring that information in to us. We can take the high mileage and plug it into a table that we have that will adjust for high mileage. But it will have to be high mileage to exceed what they consider average mileage.

"If the vehicle has been wrecked or something similar to that, bring us that information. In other words what happened to it? If it was wrecked after you renewed your vehicle's tag then there would be nothing that we could do about it this year. In other words, if it has been wrecked and repaired, but if it had already been a wrecked vehicle when you renewed your tag or got a new tag on it, then you would have to provide us with that information."

The tax department will provide a form that people can take to the dealership or the dealership can put the information on their letterhead stating why their value is different from the county's, Ward said.

"They need to specify that is their opinion of value as of Jan. 1," he said.

There is a deadline to make an appeal.

"If someone is going to appeal the value of the vehicle once they get their bill they have up until their vehicle taxes become delinquent to file an appeal on the value," Ward said. "In other words up until the time they can pay without interest they can appeal it.

"Once it goes beyond that and interest begins then your time limit or window for appealing is up."