Friday, April 18, 2008

Pet peeve for many

This morning's Lincoln Journal Star article blowing the lid off tax evaders has been the water-cooler topic of the week around town. There were over 100 comments posted before noon. Something about a physician registering his Porsche illegally in South Dakota to avoid his Nebraska taxes that seems to get people fired up. But for the average Joe who cheats to avoid Nebraska's higher vehicle taxes, there's evidently some sympathy .

Not from me. I pay mine, and I expect others to do likewise. This is just plain, flat, illegal. I think there's a lot to be said for trying to avoid these neighboring State shenanigans by adjusting motor vehicle taxes and fees to take away the incentive. That seems to be more efficient then investigating these difficult-to-prove cases. But that would require the legislature jimmying around with Nebraska's current tax structure, and is no excuse for violating the law in the meantime.

The Department of Motor Vehicles and the State Patrol have exposed the tip of a much larger iceberg, in my opinion. My downtown parking enforcement staff alone issued about 12,000 tickets for expired, fictitious or missing plates last year. The department as a whole cracked 20,000 (we have a heart--5,102 were warning tickets.) Every one of those is either tax evaded or tax delayed, and money out of the pocket of law-abiding Nebraskans. I don't think we came anywhere close to ticketing every violator, which makes we wonder exactly what percentage of cars on the road are improperly registered at any given time. My guess? About one in ten. Some of these are obvious (an expired tag), some less so (a vehicle registered in another County or State, even though it is domiciled in Lincoln.)

The law in Nebraska requires the vehicle to be registered within 30 days, and to be registered in the place where it is domiciled. It makes no difference if your family owns all of Custer County, if the vehicle spends more than half it's time living here in Lincoln, this is where it must be registered. This is widely violated by people who think because they still own grandma's lot in Loomis, they can avoid Lincoln's $49 wheel tax.

Here's the most succinct analyses of Nebraska's tax situation I've ever seen, from the LJS comments:

Why our taxes are high wrote on April 16, 2008 11:03 pm:
" Nebraska is 17th in land area and 37th in population of the 50 states. We lack natural resources and visitation dollars of states like Wyoming. Therefore, we have fewer people to pay for infrastructure (highways, etc) of a large land area. So, taxes are higher per capita. Don't like it? Move to a more populated state. I suppose I could move to Denver and have my taxes go down, but instead I accept it as the price I pay to live the good life."
And here's another one that caught my eye, regarding a legal loophole I am familiar with:

Outside City Limits wrote on April 16, 2008 12:56 pm:
" Check businesses whose owners live outside city limits as well. Used to work for a company that was located inside city limits but the owner himself lived outside of the limits. He had ALL company vehicles licensed at his home address to keep from paying the city sales tax along with wheel tax."


Anonymous said...

While it stinks our car tax is higher, I think Missouri should raise its tax and use the revenue to improve their roads.

Anonymous said...

Quick question: as far as being domiciled in Lincoln, does the same "more than half time" apply to college students? With tax day just behind us, from the IRS's perspectve, if a student receives a majority of "support" from his/her parents and has not reached age 24 college is considered a temporary residence the the student is deemed to have lived with mom & dad for the entire year.

Tom Casady said...

Quick answer: By State law, students with a permanent home address elsewhere register in the County or State of their permanent address.

The law does not answer the question of exactly when a 29 year-old pursuing a B.A. for a decade actually stops being a genuine student, and can no longer to have a permanent residence with mom and pop back in Burwell.

Zen said...

...And that is not for the law to decide. If it gets to that point, they can just tell us where to study, what to study, and why. Im a 30 year old, graduating with a B.S. in May from Doane. I served, dealt with a family emergency, and finally got back into school. Point is that if I wanted to be a professional student and could afford it, I would-but it's not for you or the state, with all due respect, to determine who is a 'real student'.

Tom Casady said...

Lighten up, Zen. I started at UNL in 1971, and finished in 1983 at the age of 30. But I wasn't registering my car at my parents' home address in St. Louis, when I had a job, a wife, a child, and a mortgage in Lincoln!

Neither are you, by the way. Thanks for your service.

Zen said...

I know I'm not, and I don't ever plan to-there are other ways for me to protest the taxes if I feel they are overboard. I haven't had my coffee yet this morning and I took a bit of umbrage to a possible correlation between students and tax evaders.

Im caffeine'd up now and a bit more moderate.

I do love your blog, by the way.

Kim said...

Some people on the street where I used to live had 3 vehicles -- a bmw,a mercedes and a lexus (no kidding). ALL were plated out of state (fla and texas), all the plates were expired, and the 'cedes and lexus had the same plates. Other neighbors and I used to kind of laugh about it, but no one ever really narc'd on them. We figured eventually they will get caught.

people do this not only to evade taxes but also to reduce insurance costs as it is sometimes cheaper to insure a vehicle in Hayseed,Neb., than Lincoln.

Anonymous said...

I think I know the answer to this, but I wanted to hear it from you. Do you think there is ever a gray area with the law?

Anonymous said...

"You cain't change a tar without a tar arn."

Anonymous said...

You cain't change a tar without a tar arn and these taxs Sure are saar

Anonymous said...

Chief, Sometimes I think you should kick Hillbilly Mike off the site but then I think that maybe his time on the computer keeps him away from the lineup windows and bugging the duty captains.
We all know who Hillbilly is!!

Anonymous said...

Oh brother, I've heard this same silly logic lots of times before. 'If you think the taxes are too high here then move'. Well guess what, lots of people are taking your advice. Especially newly retired and newly graduated. So get used to brain drain and lifetimes of acquired wealth leaving 'the good life' for more affordable places to live. Great thinking.

Gene said...

If you live in Lincoln and take advantage of all of Lincoln's services then you should pay our taxes. It's only fair. If you insist on living here and licensing your car in Burwell, you can call the Burwell police the next time you need an officer.