Starting March 1, metro car owners can expect to see longer lines and higher fees at county tag offices as the state’s new title tax law goes into effect.
Monday, tax commissioners from Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties held a press conference asking residents for patience as they switch to the new system, a one-time title tax that replaces sales tax and the annual “birthday” tax. To avoid long wait times, motorists should use phone or mail-in options, they said.
“I know it’s going to be frustrating for tax payers,” said Claudia Lawson, DeKalb’s tax commissioner. “This is a change for all of us. We’ve got to get familiar with it, the staff has to get familiar with it and the taxpayers.”
The new law could effect car owners in three ways:
Residents who buy new or used cars after March 1 will now pay a one-time tax to title their car rather than the annual “birthday” tax.
Residents who bought cars between Jan. 1, 2012, and Feb. 28, 2013, will have a choice whether to pay the one-time tax, or stick with the birthday tax.
Drivers who bought a car before 2012 will continue to pay the birthday tax.
Officials from the four counties estimate almost 500,000 people will be eligible to opt in to the new one-time tax system. That means tax offices could be overloaded with car owners who decided to opt in, in addition to those renewing their tag as usual.
Some counties, such as Cobb, are hiring additional staff and setting up dedicated help lines to deal with the crush of customers. Others are trying to educate residents through mailings and town hall meetings.
For drivers buying a new car as of March 1, the switch could result in a savings. In 2013, drivers will pay 6.5 percent of the vehicle’s market value, or $1,300 on a $20,000 car as opposed to paying an annual tax based on the vehicle’s value.
Fulton County Tax Commissioner Arthur E. Ferdinand estimates it will take twice as long to process transactions under the new system.
“For most, this is a good thing. For tax commissioners, it’s going to be a tough thing,” he said.
Car owners new to Georgia and those who buy cars through private sales could see the sharpest tax increase under the new law.
Car owners who move to Georgia after March 1 will have to pay the one-time tax based on every car they own, which could amount to a hefty bill for some multi-vehicle families. People who buy cars through private sellers will now have to pay the one-time tax. Under the old system, they paid no sales tax and only a $18 title fee, a tag fee and the birthdaytax.
For more information, visit your county’s website or the Georgia Department of Revenue at www.dor.ga.gov.
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