When owners of cars or trucks go to a Missouri license office to renew their registration, they need proof of insurance, an inspection certificate and proof they don’t owe personal property taxes on the vehicle.
Last year, lawmakers reduced that burden by making the inspection certificate unnecessary if the vehicle is less than 10 years old.
Now state Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, wants to eliminate another piece of paper — a receipt showing the property tax has been paid or a waiver showing none were owed.
“This is something I have heard about frequently from citizens, having to dig up their personal property tax receipts,” Walsh said. “There are other states that do not essentially make the Department of Revenue hold the hammer to make sure you paid your taxes.”
Walsh’s proposal to eliminate the requirement for a tax receipt or waiver was among the first pre-filed bills reported Monday for the legislative session that begins Jan. 8.
The tax receipt is often misplaced, Walsh noted, forcing the vehicle owner to make a trip to the county collector’s office for a copy. Obtaining a waiver — issued to people new to the county — also requires a visit to the collector’s office before going to a license office.
“Hopefully it will be a streamlining of government and make it easier for the average person,” Walsh said.
There are almost 5 million vehicle registration plates issued by the state, including 2.4 million passenger cars and 1.1 million trucks. There are 170,000 vehicles registered in Boone County.
The alternative to requiring the receipt or waiver would be to have collectors send a list of delinquent taxpayers to the department, which would then suspend the registration after notifying the owner that the taxes should be paid. That system is currently in place but is used mainly by smaller counties, Boone County Collector Brian McCollum said.
He does not use it because of the volume of tax bills issued by the county, he said.
The earliest McCollum could send the list to the state is Feb. 1, one month after property taxes are due, he said.
“If we were to do that we would have several thousand personal property accounts at the beginning of the year,” McCollum said. “That is a large administrative burden to identify all those vehicles.”
McCollum would not take a position on Walsh’s bill until he had a chance to read it and study its implications, he said, adding the current system is very effective in making sure taxes assessed on personal property are paid.
In March, the county wrote off $93,197 in uncollectible personal property taxes assessed in 2013 out of a total of $30.6 million, he said. That is a collection rate of 99.7 percent, attributing most of the unpaid amount to people who have moved out of the state.
The waiver is a statement that no Boone County taxes were owed on the vehicle, but McCollum won’t issue one if the owner owes taxes in another county until the money is paid, he said
A number of taxpayers wait until their registration is due to pay their taxes, which increases the cost. It is a price some people are willing to pay for the convenience of waiting to do everything at once, he said.
The department allows registrations to be renewed online if counties transmit the property tax payment information to the department. Eliminating the need to show a property tax receipt would be another step in helping people use the online system, Walsh said.
While the current system is effective in enforcing the tax bills, Walsh doesn’t think reducing the paperwork requirement would change that, she said.
“It should not be a big impact or a cause of reduced revenues,” Walsh said.