Title Tax blindsides new residents

Published 6:14 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Before making a big life decision, such as moving to a new state and taking a new job, it’s always best to make a list of possible expenses that will come up.

There’s the list of expenses you know are coming — such as a moving truck, setting up new utility accounts and paying for the gas to go back and forth between the two locations. Then, there’s always the list of things you can’t foresee, so you set aside some money for those expenses too.

Alyssa and I had quite a “unknown” list before moving to LaGrange, due to the uncertainty of how our life would change with our baby about to be born.

Up until a few weeks ago, I felt we had a pretty good handle on the “unknowns,” but then we went to get license plates for our two vehicles — my 11-year-old Mustang and her fairly new Honda.

To be honest, we had done little to no research about the cost of a license plate — or the taxes that go along with them — before we went to purchase them.

Why would we? We had to get them either way.

Maybe we should have, because then we would’ve been a little more prepared for the sticker shock we felt at the DMV.

The cost of our car tags ended up being several thousands of dollars due to the ad valorem tax.

This nearly gave me a mini heart attack. Nowhere in the “unknown” list of moving expenses did we tuck away an extra $2,000 for safe keeping.

Everyone should know the law, but for anyone who needs reminding, this expense was the result of the New Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT).

The TAVT was passed by the Georgia Assembly in 2012, providing a new method of taxation for certain motor vehicles effective March 1, 2013. The TAVT is calculated by multiplying the fair market value of the vehicle by the rate in effect on the date of purchase.

In 2015, the rate was 7 percent, and it will never exceed 9 percent, according to the State of Georgia Department of Revenue website.

From that point on — if I understand the law correctly — you only have to pay $20 a year moving forward, as long as you don’t buy another vehicle.

That’s great, and I’m sure in the future I’ll be happy to take a few $20 bills out of my wallet, pay for our two vehicles and move on.

But I also can’t get over how difficult — and even inconsiderate — this law is for anyone, especially people who are new residents or lower income residents in Georgia. Each year in Alabama, we paid several hundreds of dollars to get our car tags, but at least that was manageable. I knew it wasn’t going to cost more than $2,000 within twelve months.

I’ve watched many times in my life as people less fortunate than me dig through a wallet or purse to find a couple of dollars to pay for necessary expenses — food, utility bills or gas.

Now, we’re asking them to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, to get their car on the road?  Everyone in Georgia has been very welcoming, and I’ve enjoyed just about every minute of my three months here, but this license plate law can’t make newcomers feel welcomed.

Many probably leave the local DMV office feeling the same way I did — blindsided and broke. There’s got to be a better solution.

Daniel Evans is the managing editor of the LaGrange Daily News and can be reached at daniel.evans@lagrangenews.com.