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Vehicle title fee change smooth, tax official says
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When Gainesville resident Arturo Corso went to the Hall County Tax Commissioner’s Office in March to opt in to the new motor vehicle title tax program, he was told he couldn’t because he purchased his car out of the state.

But changes the Georgia General Assembly put into place a few days after the law took effect on March 1 will allow Corso to opt in if he wants to.

The “birthday tax” on motor vehicles went away for vehicles bought on or after March 1, 2013, and a one-time fee of 6.5 percent when the car is titled was put in its place. The title ad valorem tax also applies to private sales between individuals as well as new residents to Georgia.

Owners of vehicles bought before March 1 can decide to keep paying the annual property tax payment or “birthday tax.” Residents who titled a car in the state between Jan. 1, 2012, and March 1 can opt into the new fee program until Feb. 28, 2014.

Hall County Tax Commissioner Darla Eden said she encourages people who want to opt in to come to her office around their birthdays.

Corso’s birthday is in October, so he has time to think over the decision. He had said it would definitely save him money, but now he said he wanted to think it over some more.

“The question is: Is the total payment of the upfront tax less than what I would pay in ad valorem each year over the life of ownership?” he asked.

The other fixes made to the original law include removing the double tax on car leases and gives “buy here, pay here” dealers, who typically sell to people with poor credit, a break on the normal title fee for each title registration.

Overall, Eden said it’s been a smooth transition.

“I felt like we were very prepared for March 1,” Eden said. “We had a really good April.”

Although the 2013 fix-it bill, House Bill 266, addresses a 1 percent commission charge counties can assess the state, Georgia law allows counties to deduct a commission on the property tax revenue it collects for other entities.

Hall County commissioners approved a resolution in February that set the percentages of commissions to be charged to the Hall County and city of Gainesville school districts, the cities and the state. Commissioners last week approved a commission charge of 2.5 percent of the new fee collection to the school districts.

Eden told the Hall County commissioners at an April 22 work session that her office took in about $400,000 in fees, with $360,000 in new money to Hall County. That amount came from one vendor, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which titled 700 cars in the county in March.

Eden said she assumed the company chose Hall County because it lacks emissions standard testing requirements. She said at the meeting that she hadn’t been in contact with the company.

“So this commission is a big deal to Hall County,” Eden said.

Jud Seymour, spokesman with the Georgia Department of Revenue, confirmed it’s state law and of the new tax revenue the county collects this year, the county will keep 43 percent for local use and send 57 percent to the state.

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