Friday, October 2, 2009

Split time

An interesting email arrived Tuesday from a legislative aide to a Nebraska State Senator. A constituent had contacted the Senator, complaining that either the law or the enforcement of the law pertaining to registration of motor vehicles needed to be addressed. He said that he and neighbors had repeatedly reported a couple living in the neighborhood for five years who had been continuously registering their car in Minnesota, avoiding Nebraska taxes. He was pretty disgusted with the police department, State patrol, and Department of Motor Vehicles, believing that none of us has enforced the law despite many contacts by multiple people. I, of course, could only find a single report to LPD, in April of 2008.

The caller on that date was anonymous. Officer Jason Adams had investigated, and filed a rather detailed report. He determined that the owner of the car indeed owned the townhome in Lincoln, and that the car was indeed registered in Minnesota. When he interviewed the homeowner, he told him that he works in an industry with offices in various places, and he supervises a workforce in both Nebraska and Minnesota. He said that he quite literally splits his time between two homes—one in Lincoln and one in suburban Minneapolis. He said that he has a daughter in college (she's at UNL, paying non-resident tuition), but the rest of the family is living at the house in Minnesota, and he travels between the two.

Looking at online records on the web, available to anyone, I was able to find that he and his college-student daughter both have area code 615 cellular phones. I also located the Ramsey County tax assessors information about the Minnesota house, including the 2009 property tax statement. It’s the more expensive of the two homes. Checking the two State’s motor vehicle tax estimators, it looks like the registration costs are about the same in both communities. I can’t see any financial advantage to be had, so that would not appear to be a motive for registering the car in Minnesota. His story seems to check out pretty well, but there would be no way short of long-term surveillance to determine whether his vehicle in fact lives in Lincoln for more than 182.5 days per year.

That, by the way, is how Nebraska law determines the tax situs of a motor vehicle: the place where the motor vehicle is kept for the “greater part of the year.” It matters not if your daddy owns half of McPherson County: if the pickup truck spends 30 seconds more in Lincoln than in Tryon, it must be registered in Lancaster County, and you must pay Lincoln’s wheel tax.


Anonymous said...

182.5 days?

Charity said...

So instead of going over and asking his neighbor of five years why his truck had MN plates, this person (feeling very self-righteous, I'm sure) calls up his state senator and complained about how law enforcement isn't doing their job.

But if you'd suggest that if it's so important to do this, then the public should be wiling to pay for it, in terms of more taxes. I'm sure this person would reject that obvious solution without hesitation.


Anonymous said...

Awesome post Chief, as always. I commend the work of the officer(s) in investigating this in full detail and finding the right conclusion--rather than just an oblivious guess like that neighbor!!

Ben said...

Good morning! It's always interesting how looks can be deceiving.

I thought I'd comment on something Charity said. I completely agree with the idea that citizens sometimes don't do the responsible thing and too often take the easy way out by calling the police. From the sounds of it, that may be the case here. However, there are times in "minor" situations like this when calling the police is the appropriate thing to do.

Many police officers are great mediators and can often diffuse a situation before it starts. Sometimes "keeping the peace" means stepping in when citizens are incapable of doing so. For instance, some people may know they have short tempers and need someone else to negotiate. Maybe they just don't get along with their neighbor. Maybe they fear getting egged by their neighbor's cousin's friends :).

Just food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Charity says..(feeling very self-righteous, I'm sure)

Self-righteous who?

Charity said...

Ben - I can see that. However, if you know enough about a neighbor to know s/he is volatile, I would think it would be more likely that you would be familiar enough with this person to know they work in two different states.

That said, you are right about 'minor' issues which are often little battles between neighbors that can blow up very quickly. In such incidences, I would call the police if it was something I couldn't ignore. (Actually, in this case I'd be more likely to call the DMV rather than the police - or the state IRS - but then, that's me.)

Anonymous - yes, you are right. I can be quite self-righteous at times. But to add to my self-righteous streak, I can also be cranky and sarcastic! But then, I'm not that nice a person, especially on short sleep..... ;-)

Anonymous said...

Interesting as usualy. So when does an interested concerned citizen become a nosey mean spiteful neighbor? Do these influential people raise kids have friends who are mean too or do they really know what "mind your own business means?" Parents "do not raise bullies or mean girls" out of self ignorance.

Anonymous said...

so how do we report people who have a car with no tags whatsoever? No in transits, no dealer plates. Nothing since Dec 08? Do we wait for it to be parked on the street and call it in? (which is usually at least every other day)

Trevor Brass said...

More money for the DMV!? Maybe they can fix the (bloody awful) entertainment options on hand for those stuck in line waiting for an employee to explain what two forms of proof of address really count (subscription to gentleman's magazine?). This is besides, of course, sharing your misery with the other hapless saps in line with you.

Anonymous said...

I read in the Journalstar newspaper today about "towing law", etc. Can you do a future blog topic on the police employees who do towing and their procedures? That would be an interesting topic that could relate to this.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I hope they don't report my plate or any of my friend's plates.

Steve said...


I have neighbors who are quite obviously "volatile" at times, yet I know nothing more about them, including where they work. I'm not sure what Ben meant about knowing someone has a "short temper." In my own case, it would mean that I know myself well enough that I would hesitate to confront someone for fear I would "blow up" and get myself in trouble. Therefore, I would call the police to act in my behalf in finding out if someone was avoiding their tax liabilities. As for minding your own business (anonymous), it is everyone's business to see that criminals, scofflaws, and tax evaders are not allowed to go take advantage of society.

Tom Casady said...

1:05 -

You'd call us, of course. That's how you should always report crime to the police. Non-emergency number for this one: 441-6000.


Not to diminish the frustration with the DMV lines, but improper registration enforcement isn't about making more money for them--it's about everyone paying the taxes they legitimately owe.

Anonymous said...


For A9-099079, was there a locked deadbolt on that kicked-in door?

Anonymous said...

I've always managed to forget to register until the last day of the month and usually the last day of the week. Worst case scenario right? Well I've never spent more than 10 minutes (less than 5 in line) at the DMV for plates or DL.

Grundle King said...

Charity wrote: "However, if you know enough about a neighbor to know s/he is volatile, I would think it would be more likely that you would be familiar enough with this person to know they work in two different states."

Indeed, you may know that they work or reside in 2 different states...but simply working or residing part-time in Minnesota is not enough. As the Chief pointed out, if he lives in Minnesota for more than half of the year (182.5 days), ONLY THEN is he exempted from having to license his vehicle in Nebraska. Such information might be a little harder for the neighbor to come up with.

Anonymous said...

Chief it’s interesting to note that you are only portraying half the picture, Nebraska law what about Minnesota law?

As a licensed driver in the state of Minnesota, paying out of state tuition, owning a primary residence in Minnesota, paying Minnesota taxes, and registered voter in Minnesota (presumably)

Even if this individual had his car in Nebraska for 200 days, and knowing the above information, it seems highly unlikely this individual gave up his clam to Minnesota residency. Without knowing anything about the wording of law in Minnesota, I’m sure the county that he resides in and the state of Minnesota would disagree with you that they have give up clam to his generated tax revenue.

Now this also does not take into account an federal laws and rulings regarding regulation and collection of taxes as it would appear that this person is engaging interstate commerce.

Anonymous said...

Chief, it also seems that you are mixing up legal obligation to pay taxed and a moral obligation. If a business is outside your physical tax jurisdiction but does a large amount of commerce inside your jurisdiction. What is that legal obligation? The US Supreme Court has ruled several times that business are within their right to use every legitimate corporate structure to minimize tax burden.

“For my tax evasion, I should be punished. For my tax avoidance, I should be commended.” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis