State to begin directly collecting vehicle taxes in 2013

Published 5:15 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Commissioners discuss possibility of Polk tag office
Beginning July 2013, Polk County residents will pay their motor vehicle taxes to North Carolina, not to the Polk County Tax Office.
The future could also include a tag office within Polk’s tax office if the numbers work out.
Polk County Tax Collector Melissa Bowlin updated the Polk County Board of Commissioners on Monday, Jan. 23 regarding House Bill 1779, which will become effective July 1, 2013 and will create a combined state registration and tax collection system for motor vehicles.
Once the new bill is effective next year, taxpayers will pay their taxes and renew their tag either through a tag office or online. The state will distribute the motor vehicle tax revenues to each county, minus 1.5 percent the state will charge for the service. The state will also charge late fees, but those fees will go to the state.
State officials expect tax collections to increase by about 10 percent with the state-mandated system. Polk County is expected to generate an estimated $60,000 to $70,000 more in annual revenue if the 10-percent increase in collections is achieved, minus the 1.5 percent fee to the state.
Bowlin also said the county could have difficulty in the future collecting approximately $225,000 of unpaid motor vehicle taxes. Polk County can currently create blocks on the account for someone who hasn’t paid their taxes, but after the new system is implemented there will be no way to look back and see if someone owes back taxes, according to Bowlin.
Other concerns raised Monday included that Polk could lose some motor vehicle revenues when the state takes over collections because many Polk residents’ mailing addresses say Henderson or Rutherford county when the property is actually located in Polk County.
The address issue also prompted discussions related to opening a local tag office. Employees at a local tag office would be less likely to mistakenly allocate tax revenues to the wrong county, Bowlin said.
“My biggest worry about this new system is we don’t have a tag office,” county manager Ryan Whitson said. “It is possible to do your own (tag office). I am worried that some of our tax revenue will go to Rutherford or Henderson county by mistake.”
Polk used to have a tag office located in Columbus, but the state closed it several years ago. The tag office was located where Scoops ‘N More is today along Mills Street.
While officials said a local tag office doesn’t sound profitable, commissioners seemed to think the service to residents could be worth the cost of including a tag office in the county-owned tax office. Whitson was charged with speaking with McDowell County officials about how they operate their own tag office and will report to commissioners next month.
Whitson said he estimates running a tag office would take two employees. He said he is a little concerned about parking on court days but doesn’t know how much traffic a tag office would create, so there are a lot of questions.
“There’s not a lot of profit but if we had our own space it would help (with costs),” Whitson said.
Bowlin said the state would provide the paper and the tags.
“All you’re doing is providing a convenience to taxpayers and it would benefit us to maintain these transactions,” said Bowlin.
Bowlin discussed the hardship on her office of having four employees while two employees train for the new system. Training for the new system could begin next January, so Bowlin is asking for a full-time temporary employee next fiscal year, which begins July 1, in order to train the person to handle day-to-day transactions.

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