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Tackling Taxes on Cars No Longer Owned

By James Lomuscio

Sold your car eight months ago and just received a personal property tax bill for it?

Westport Tax Assessor Paul Friia said today he has been getting a lot of calls from residents since the real estate and personal property tax bills went out two days ago.

The solution could be simple, said Friia, “depending upon what they did with the vehicle.’”

“If they were transferring the plates from one car to the next, they would just pay the bill for the old car, and then in December they will get a supplemental bill for the new car which will reflect any overpayment on the old car,” he said.

What about the individual who did not transfer plates but just sold the car, had a lease end on a car, or the car was stolen or totaled due to an accident, as well as those that were junked, traded-in or donated to a charity?

If that person did not return the plates to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the tax assessor and thus, tax collector, will have no idea he or she no longer owns the vehicle, and a tax bill will be sent, Friia said.

“The taxes follow the plates, so if the plates go back to DMV, they won’t come back to us any more,” he said.

One would have to prove they no longer own the car, present a receipt for the license plates and bill of sale, and, for example, if the car were sold to a family member who lives out of town, a copy of the new registration, Friia said.

He also stressed that if one decides not to re-register a car but leaves it in the garage, he or she still has to pay taxes for it.

“It’s an ownership tax, not a use tax,” he said, noting the current bills reflect the period from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013.

“If someone would like to appeal their motor vehicle assessment, they should pay the bill, and then they can go to the Board of Assessment Appeals in September,” Friia said.

Cars seemed to be the only concern this tax season.

“The mill rate went up less than 1 percent so it (real estate property taxes) wasn’t a big issue this year,” Friia said.

According to Tax Collector Peggy Klein, approximately 4,500 real estate tax bills have been mailed to homeowners over the past couple of days.

She said that tax bills are not sent to a number of homeowners whose houses have mortgages since most banks include taxes in mortgage payments.

Friia referred those who have any questions to following website:  http://www.westportct.gov/index.aspx?page=78.

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