The state’s new “Tag and Tax Together” program could boost Johnston County tax coffers.
Starting with registration-renewals due in September, North Carolinians must pay their vehicle’s property tax when they renew their registration. Before, vehicle owners paid their registration renewal and tax bill separately.
Taxpayers owe Johnston County about $10.5 million each year in vehicle property taxes, said Pat Goddard, head of the county’s tax office. But about $800,000 trickles in long after the tax deadline, she said.
“We didn’t get to collect that in the fiscal year when we could have used it or budgeted for it,” Goddard said.
Eventually, she said, the county collects all but about $80,000 of the vehicle taxes. But it spends taxpayer dollars on letters reminding people to pay their vehicle taxes, Goddard said.
“Tax and Tag” could speed payment of the $800,000 because to renew their registration, vehicle owners will have to pay the vehicle tax simultaneously.
“You really want to have your money that you can use for the current services that you’re providing,” Goddard said. “You still have to provide all those current services whether you’re able to collect the money. If you can collect all the money, hopefully it can help keep our tax rate static. Our commissioners have been able to do that for several years.”
Johnston County’s property-tax rate is 78 cents per $100 valuation.
As the state transitions to the new system, some people will have to pay their vehicle’s property tax twice in 12 months. But the program does make paying the tax bill and registration fee more convenient: the Division of Motor Vehicles added credit card machines to its offices. People can pay the money online, by mail or by credit or debit card in person.
People who renewed their registration before Sept. 1 will still have the normal three-month period to pay the tax.
Goddard said the change is good because it simplifies the process for taxpayers and lessens their interaction with local government officials. “It’s just so much more streamlined, and I really think it’s good for the citizens,” she said.
Pat Proctor runs the DMV’s license-plate office in Smithfield. She said the new process doesn’t change day-to-day operations for her office. “It’s just taking a little more time for us now because it’s new to everyone and we’re having to explain it,” she said.
Proctor said the new system provides some leeway: If a title is changing hands, the new owner can delay paying the property tax for two months. The vehicle owner can register the plate and receive a temporary orange sticker that expires after 60 days if the taxes are not paid.
Proctor said almost everyone who comes into her office likes the new system. “You do have a few that think it’s a little bit of a hardship to do both at one time, but most people like it,” she said. “They say, ‘Now I’m through, I don't have to worry about a bill and I’m through for a year.’”
Gladys Allen, who lives near Four Oaks, said the new system doesn’t change anything for her. “But for people that can’t afford to pay for taxes, it’s a bit of a hardship for them to pay for them all at one time,” she said. “But it should be better; that way you ain’t got to worry about it for a year.”
Princess Dukes of Smithfield likes the new system. She paid both her taxes and registration last week with a credit card.
Dukes said she received her bill two months in advance, giving her enough time to prepare for the larger payment. “It’s convenient that you don’t have to make two separate payments,” she said.