Wheel tax confusion for some Scott County residents

Wheel tax confusion for some Scott County residents

Posted:
Della Chambers bought a 2012 Honda Accord a year ago. Della Chambers bought a 2012 Honda Accord a year ago.
Della Chambers said at first, she was not going to pay the tax on her new car. She was pretty stubborn at first, but then relented. Della Chambers said at first, she was not going to pay the tax on her new car. She was pretty stubborn at first, but then relented.
"They are liable for paying the wheel tax here in our county," said Scott County Clerk Pat Phillips. "They are liable for paying the wheel tax here in our county," said Scott County Clerk Pat Phillips.
Assistant Knox County Clerk Will Johnson says those who haven't paid their wheel tax will get a letter reminding them the tax is due. Assistant Knox County Clerk Will Johnson says those who haven't paid their wheel tax will get a letter reminding them the tax is due.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

PIONEER (WATE) - Do you have to pay a wheel tax for your car? Half a dozen counties throughout East Tennessee charge one.

Scott County initiated their wheel tax two years ago.

A woman in Pioneer said, at first, she was not going to pay the tax on her new car. She was pretty stubborn at first, but then relented.

Wheel tax fees vary by county. Some charge as little as $25, others as much as $36 for each vehicle, plus you have to pay the state registration fee.

The fees generate millions in revenue for some counties. In Knox County, for example, there are close to 426,000 registered vehicles.

The wheel tax in Scott County is relatively new and as we found out, not every one is familiar with the rules.

Della Chambers bought a 2012 Honda Accord a year ago. She and her husband live in Scott County, but they purchased the car from the Rusty Wallace Honda dealership in Knox County in January of 2013.

At the time, papers show her car was registered in Knox County. A few weeks ago when she went to the county clerk's office in Huntsville to pay the 2014 vehicle registration fee, Chambers didn't like what she heard.

"When I handed the girl my papers, she looked at it, went onto the computer and said, 'Oh, you bought this car in Knox County and you didn't pay us your wheel tax last year. So I'm going to have to charge you extra on the wheel tax.' I told her, 'No I'm not paying an extra year of wheel tax,'" she said.

Chambers says she left the office. She then sent a letter to 6 On Your Side asking if the fee legal.

"They are liable for paying the wheel tax here in our county," said Scott County Clerk Pat Phillips.

Tennessee Code Annotated 55-4-105, titled "Renewal Certificates and Registration Plates" says if you fail to pay the wheel tax one year, you have to make it up the next.

"Basically what we do is we go into our system. It will show when we enter a license plate number, it will show whether a person had registered there vehicle here last year," said Phillips.  

Phillips added that if someone skipped paying in 2013, for example, it will catch up to them in 2014.

In Scott County, however, a person who buys a car in another county, like Chambers, can go an entire year without paying the local wheel tax.

The tracking system is different in Knox County where there is also a wheel tax. Here, if a local resident buys a car outside of Knox County, it takes about a month before the wheel tax rule catches up to them.

"We'll receive a report from the Tennessee Department of Revenue on a monthly basis for registrations that occurred on the month prior. We use that information and figure out the Knox County addresses and we'll send them a letter informing them that they owe the Knox County wheel tax," said Assistant Knox County Clerk Will Johnson.

Johnson says those who haven't paid their wheel tax will get a letter reminding them the tax is due.

Nevertheless, about 2,000 people each year, mostly those who mail their payment, don't pay the tax in Knox County.

Beginning in June, their registration will be denied if their wheel tax payment isn't up to date.

"We are going to start refusing people's registration if they do not pay it from the year prior," said Johnson.

Eventually, Della Chambers paid the Scott County wheel tax for her car, but reluctantly.

Scott County Clerk Pat Phillips says since the wheel tax there is relatively new, they frequently have to remind residents about the extra fee when they renew their registration.

At both Scott and Knox County offices, we were told quite a few people still complain about having to pay the wheel tax.

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