car taxes

Out-of-State Car Registration Crackdown

Cities are working to recover lost revenue while a state task force also examines the issue.

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Drive the streets of Connecticut, and you might have seen a lot of people sporting license plates from states with low or no car taxes, like Maine, New York, and New Jersey. While some may be visitors, registering a car out-of-state has long been used as a way to avoid paying Connecticut’s car tax.

Whether people have used an out-of-state plate or another method to avoid local car taxes in Connecticut, towns and cities are losing out on millions of dollars in revenue that pay for local services. 

How to ensure compliance has remained a big challenge.

The taxes raise more than an estimated $900 million per year to support services in our towns and cities.  Local and state leaders have said there has to be a better way of making sure everyone pays their fair share. 

NBC Connecticut Investigates spoke with drivers of cars sporting out of state plates. While we do not know if they live in Connecticut and use out-of-state plates, had a variety of responses when asked about them.

  • Len Besthoff\NBC Connecticut:          “You from around here?
  • Driver:                                            “Um, yeah.  Why?”
  • Len Besthoff\NBC Connecticut           “What’s the deal with the out of state plates?  We’re doing a story about out-of-state plates.” 
  • Driver:                                            “Oh, this is not my car.”
  • Len Besthoff\NBC Connecticut:          “You from around here? 
  • Driver:                                                 “Am I from around here?” 
  • Len Besthoff\NBC Connecticut:       “Yeah.  What’s the deal with the Jersey plates?”
  • Driver:                                                  “I don’t know, what’s going on?”
  • Len Besthoff\NBC Connecticut:      “We’re doing a story about folks who live around here with out-of-state plates.”
  • Driver:                                                  “Oh yeah?  Oh that’s crazy.” 

Local leaders said when it comes to out-of-state plates in their communities, they’re not sure what to believe. 

“In the city of Stamford, we have a lot of plates from New York City, and, they’re guests.  Or are they?” said Stamford Mayor David Martin.

Right now most Connecticut towns and cities have about a 95% success rate collecting the car tax.   Local leaders said this still equates to millions of dollars of uncollected revenue for things like police, schools, and parks.

It has left people who do pay the car tax conflicted. 

“It puts the burden on the people who pay if you do not pay your property tax, your neighbor does,” said Linda Calabrese of Tolland.

“If they can’t afford to pay their taxes, but yet they need to go to work to put food on the table, what choice do they have?” commented George Frazao of West Harford.

Several local governments in Connecticut have signed up a company called Municipal Tax Services, or MTS.

MTS sends its employees out with license plate readers to get the data, often at night, and gets half the money it recovers from car tax evaders. 

Andrew Schilkowski of MTS said, “Conversations we have on a day to day with taxpayers, you can kind of tell people who are oh I didn’t know I’m supposed to do this, or I was just visiting, whereas other people, you get the inkling right off the bat that they’re trying to cheat the system and you know, now that they’ve gotten caught they’re just trying to figure out an excuse not to pay.”

While this helps municipalities, the bottom line is tax collection offices throughout the state spend a huge chunk of time on it.

“…it’s a pain in the tush in terms of the amount of work that’s necessary to collect it and get it right,” Mayor Martin said.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff told NBC Connecticut Investigates, “It’s very difficult to enforce on a local level as to where somebody actually keeps their car six months and a day.”

Duff has been behind legislation setting up a task force to solve this issue once and for all.

Among those appointed to the panel, veteran Norwalk police officer Tom Roncinske.  He explained patrols dedicated to finding violations could work, but taxpayers would likely have to foot the bill for that. 

“Police officers now are overtaxed with a lot of the work that they have to do and adding that to their, one more thing, is going to be problematic.”

There’s also has been the question of lowering, or getting rid of the car tax, but to do that towns and cities would need to look for an alternative plan or be out the millions in revenue in generates. Senator Duff said he would support such a move.

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