Taxpayers urged to check car bills

PROSPECT — As area residents start receiving their motor vehicle tax bills in the coming weeks, officials are warning them to check the bills for accuracy.

“Open it when it comes in,” Prospect Tax Collector Diane Lauber said. “Don’t wait until the end of the month.”

When the state Department of Motor Vehicles switched to a new computer system last August, thousands of registrations ended up going to the wrong towns.

Now, as tax collectors send out bills, there are still inconsistencies between residents’ mailing addresses and the town where the vehicle is garaged. Errors could occur for people who live in one town but keep their car in another.

About 50,000 vehicle owners statewide could be affected, according to a DMV estimate.

“We are advising residents early so that they look immediately at their tax bills and make any necessary changes before paying them,” DMV Commissioner Michael Bzdyra said.

According to the DMV, data in that old system was compiled from customers over decades and could have old addresses never changed by someone who moved or incorrect information given when registering a vehicle. The DMV has not been consistent in how it collected registration information over the years.

“The new computer system attempts to standardize information so that there is consistency in DMV records as well as those given to towns for tax billing purposes,” according to a DMV statement.

The DMV has been working with the Connecticut Association of Assessing Offices and the Connecticut Tax Collectors’ Association to address the issues over the past several months.

“While we have made a great deal of progress in addressing these issues, and have significantly reduced them, there will be some cases where people receive tax bills from the wrong town. It is important that if anyone receives a tax bill from the wrong town, they contact the town that issued the bill as soon as possible so that the bill can be forwarded to the correct town. If anyone receives a tax bill from the wrong town, it is important that they do not ignore the incorrect tax bill,” John Rainaldi, president of the Connecticut Association of Assessing Officers, and Launa Goslee, president of the Connecticut Tax Collector’s Association, said in a joint statement.

Even if a vehicle owner doesn’t receive a bill, that doesn’t mean they don’t owe taxes on it, Lauber said. Owners should pay taxes on any vehicle owned Oct. 1, 2015 to the town where that vehicle was usually stored at that time.

By law, tax collectors must charge interest on bills not paid on time, even if the owner never received the bill, Lauber said.

“It’s going to mean penalties for people,” she said.