Tag offices brace for rush over car tax changes

by: Richard Elliot Updated:

An office for driver's services in DeKalb County is expecting record crowds March 1 as the ad valorem tax gets switched over to a one-time title tax.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Tag offices around Georgia are bracing for a rush of people as a law goes into effect switching the yearly ad valorem car tax to a one-time title tax.

"Tomorrow is what we call the perfect storm," said DeKalb County's Director of Motor Vehicles Brent Bennett.  "It's the first of the month.  It's a Friday, which is our busiest day, and then on top of that, we have the TAVT (title ad valorem tax) coming into effect.  So we expect quite a few folks here tomorrow."

Under the new law, people who bought cars before 2012 will still have to pay the yearly ad valorem, or so-called birthday tax, when they renew their tags.  Drivers who bought cars from January 2012 to Feb. 28 can continue to pay ad valorem, or they can opt-in to pay the one-time title tax.  But under the new law, anyone eligible for the opt-in can legally do it once the switchover happens March 1.  Tax officials have been warning people for months not to do that and to wait until the time for their annual tag renewal.

"I think we're ready," said Bennett.  "I think most of the counties are excited.  We're ready, and I think we're trained, but there's only so much you can prepare for."

Some car dealers are already worrying about the switchover, because they said when lawmakers drafted the bill, they didn't take into account people who lease vehicles.  Jim Ellis Automotive Vice President of Operations Mark Frost said as a result, people who lease vehicles essentially will be double-taxed.

"So basically, lease payments on short term leases, by our calculations, are going to go up 18 percent because you'll have to pay the TAVT," said Frost.  "We're kind of afraid it'll kill leasing."

Lawmakers tried to fix those issues Thursday, but some of the fixes led to more problems.  They could vote on the repairs to the law Friday.

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