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OPINION | DRIVETIME MAHATMA: Temp-tag scofflaws in little fear

by Frank Fellone | February 6, 2021 at 9:02 a.m.

Dear Mahatma: When I saw this temporary paper tag I thought immediately of you. At first, I couldn't understand how the paper could get so torn in less than the 30 days the new owner has to register the vehicle and pay the sales tax. The year was missing but I saw JUN-14, and realized the owner has until JUN-14-2021 to get tagged. -- T.D.

Dear T.D.: Thank you for the photo. But June 14, 2021? Surely you mean 2020. Or even 2019, given the ragged state of the paper temp tag.

Oh, that was cynicism. Duh. We are also prone to cynicism. It's hard not to be when there's so much available material.

The abuse of temporary tags is a hot spot for readers of this column. Our readers are invariably good people who follow the rules, one of which is to register your vehicle within 30 days of purchase. It's a sad joke, really, to see so many vehicles with expired temp tags.

To clarify the matter, we asked some questions of Scott Hardin of the Department of Finance and Administration, a part of which is the revenue office, where people go to register their vehicles.

Dude, we said:

Does the finance department get information from dealers when a vehicle is sold and a temp tag is affixed?

Not directly, but the agency does get copies of bills of sales and direct liens.

Does the department have an estimate of how much revenue is lost, if any, when temp tags are abused?

No. And by the way, law enforcement agencies are responsible for issuing citations for expired temp tags.

What's the penalty for registering a vehicle whose temp tag has expired?

State law puts a $3 penalty for each 10 days past the temp tag, not to exceed the annual license fee of the vehicle registered. Maximum penalties range from $17 to $30 depending on the vehicle. State law also imposes a penalty of 10% of the assessed sales tax.

(Cynicism alert! These penalties aren't exactly motivational. How about if law enforcement agencies confiscate the vehicle, and gives it back on proof of registration? Now that's motivational. Legislators, pay attention.)

Turns out there's a bill in the current legislative session that would extend that 30 days to 60.

Does the finance department have a position on this?

The department does not have a position.

May we end on a happy note?

The Fabulous Babe has a new vehicle. On Wednesday, she dispatched her manservant to the main revenue office near the Capitol to get the thing registered and get a new license plate.

We paid the 6.5% sales tax. Ouch. Hope the state uses that money wisely.

Here's the happy part. The revenue office gets a bad rap. We were done in 25 minutes. Part of that was luck -- not a big crowd. The other part was the staff, especially Helen Walker. She was fast, efficient and friendly.

Thank you, Ms. Walker, for making it better.

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