Decal elimination could cost taxpayers more

Published 5:50 pm Thursday, August 13, 2015

If annual vehicle decals were eliminated in Buckingham County, vehicle owners could potentially pay more for their annual vehicle license tax, according to a county report.

During a Monday work session regarding the potential elimination of the $25 county stickers — where the board only voted to remove the word “Buckingham” from the decals — County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter noted that most counties that have eliminated the decal increased their license fee and added it to personal property bills.

Among area counties, Carter said, only Cumberland did not increase its fee after scrapping the decal.

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“The cost of the decal may need to be billed as part of

the personal property tax and called a license fee,” according to her report. Counties that have eliminated decals “said they had to increase the fee to offset the additional associated cost.”

If the decal is eliminated in Buckingham, another means of identification for using solid waste sites “must be found,” the report said.

In Carter’s presentation to the board, she said taxes on vehicles must be paid before any decal can be issued, making the decal a collection tool for unpaid or delinquent personal property taxes.

According to the report, the approximate annual total cost that the county incurs when purchasing and mailing the decals is over $13,000, while the average revenue from sale of the decals is $300,000.

“The treasurer has advised that she will most likely request the county to [add] an additional fee to cover the administrative transactions with the [Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles],” the report says, noting that DMV restrictions are placed on those who have delinquent personal property. “Most counties have had to increase the administration fee and license fee due to making up for the loss [of] money and for the cost … of the DMV stop…,” the report states, citing the potential increase as a disadvantage to the taxpayer.

About 16 percent of taxpayers pay their taxes late, or between between Dec. 5 and April 15, the report states, resulting in payment of penalty and interest on personal property taxes owed.

Between March 1 and April 29 this year, over $430,237 was collected in delinquent personal property taxes by the county, according to the report. “The treasurer also collected $44,450.45 in penalties and $20,577.18 in interest payments” totaling approximately a half-million dollars. The figure represents the 16 percent who wait and pay their personal property taxes by April when the decals are due.

The report says that not having to scrape and stick the decals onto vehicles and not having to travel to the treasurer’s office or purchase the decal by mail advantages to the taxpayer.

The report cites a potential for more personal property taxes being paid on time and less citizen traffic in April in the treasurer’s office as advantages to the county should the decal be eliminated.

“The treasurer had commented that it will create more work for the treasurer’s office to collect past-due accounts,” states the report, calling the extra work a disadvantage.

If the decal is eliminated, the treasurer would begin using other tax collection means, including garnishments, bank liens or distress warrants, among others. “There are fees associated with all of these collection methods that would be paid by the county.”

The decal is a “good collection tool,” states the report, “not only for the [personal property] tax but for penalty and interest collection.”

Annual fees in lieu of car or truck decals vary from county to county, the document says. Most vehicle owners in Albemarle pay $38.50, $33 in Fluvanna, $38.75 in Nelson, $23 in Cumberland, $25 in Appomattox (soon to be $35) and $35 in Prince Edward.

Buckingham is one of approximately 31 cities and counties that still require decals, according to the report.