Enforcement of license plate tags will likely become a problem with a new tax law taking effect March 1, said Troup County Tax Commissioner Gary Wood.
Wood, speaking to county commissioners at a work session Friday, said that people who move to Troup County from out of state may be less likely to get their Georgia tag as specified by law because of new costs associated with getting a Georgia title. The new law replaces sales tax on vehicles purchased in the state after March 1 with a state-mandated 6.5 percent title fee based on a state-decided value on the vehicle. However, the title fee also will apply to any vehicles whose owners will be getting a Georgia title after March 1, meaning a new resident would need to pay 6.5 percent of the value of his car to legally obtain his title.
“This part (of the bill) is not very conductive to drawing citizens into Troup County, or to the state of Georgia,” Wood said. “If you live out of state and you’re going to move here with your wife and your two children, and you bring your four $40,000 vehicles into Troup County, or state of Georgia, (in addition to the $2,800 for the initial vehicle) you’re going to pay $7,800 for the rest of these vehicles.”
New residents can pay 50 percent up front, but the state will hold their title until they pay the rest, Wood said.
Wood said new residents would be more likely to put off purchasing their Georgia title, which they are required to do within 90 days of moving to the state.
“Can you imagine how many out-of-state vehicles we’re going to have riding around the state of Georgia now with out-of-state tags,” Wood asked commissioners. “If law enforcement does not enforcement this law … we’re going to lose money, and we’re going to lose it on the SPLOST (special-purpose, local-option sales tax) side.”
Commissioner Morris Jones asked how law enforcement could reasonably tell if a resident with an Alabama tag was in violation. Sheriff James Woodruff, who was attending the work session, said that if the driver still had an Alabama license, there wouldn’t be a way to tell. Without a tip off, like a neighbor informing authorities, there wouldn’t be a way to reasonably know if the driver was in violation or not.
Commissioner Trip Foster said he was very afraid that the new law will mean many drivers without updated tags, which would tie up law enforcement on enforcing tag and title laws, taking them away from more serious issues.
Commission Chairman Ricky Wolfe also brought up another issue with the new law – it’s use of a state-set value for vehicles instead of what the owner actually paid for a vehicle. Wolfe used a hypothetical example of him selling a car to fellow Commissioner Richard English as a personal deal for $1,000, but the state-set value of the vehicle is $3,000. Wood confirmed that English would be required to pay 6.5 percent of the $3,000 value given by the state, not the $1,000 he actually paid, for the title.
“Yeah, it’s tough. I understand it,” Wood said.
Wood said an owner can appeal the value if there is damage or problems that makes him believe the vehicle’s value should be lower. However, an owner may have to get an independent appraisal, which would cost the owner more money, Foster pointed out.
“That’s unacceptable,” Foster said.
Wolfe said that the new law may seem to many residents as “another example of government intrusiveness in their lives.” He stressed it is state legislation, not local, but it now falls to local officials to enforce it.
“I think that (state Rep.) Randy Nix and all the people that voted for it ought to be the ones to explain to the public what their motivation was and what the intent is,” Wolfe said. “Like so many things they pass, they don’t get down into the weeds of the impact of the person on the street. There are going to be a lot of people that are in poverty that are going to have that exchange that me and Richard just talked about, and they’re going to come in there and they’re not going to have enough.”