Even as a new method of taxing vehicle purchases went into effect March 1, Georgia legislators were still tinkering with it.
Now a few changes have been made to the one-time title ad valorem tax, which replaced the annual birthday tax.
The big change really was on this leasing piece of it, said Bert Brantley of the Atlanta public relations firm McRae, on behalf of the Georgia Automobile Dealers Association.
As originally written, the new system might have made those who lease cars double pay sales and title taxes, he said. That wasnt legislators intent, and the alteration makes that clear, he said.
There were a few other small changes, but they were technical considerations such as calculation of fair market value, which buyers are unlikely to notice, Brantley said.
They made some changes that were needed and were good consumer changes, he said.
Jud Seymour, Georgia Department of Revenue communications director, confirmed Brantleys interpretation of the significant changes.
Another somewhat big change is that people who originally did not qualify to opt in to the new system because of out of state purchases now qualify to opt in and can put any sales in use taxes paid to Georgia toward the opt in amount due, Seymour said via e-mail.
Under the new law, the annual birthday tax does not apply to vehicles bought after March 1. Instead, buyers will pay a one-time tax that can be worked into purchase-time financing.
Owners who bought their vehicles before Jan. 1, 2012, will remain under the old tax system until that vehicle is sold. And from now on casual sales, such as buying a car from a neighbor instead of a dealership, are subject to the tax. It will have to be paid at the time of title transfer, said Wade McCord, deputy tax commissioner for Bibb County.
Anyone who bought a car between Jan. 1, 2012, and Feb. 28, 2013, can either stay in the old annual tax system or opt into the new one.
Each person can review and decide for themselves which they prefer, and they have until February 2014 to make that decision, which means no need to rush to the tag office and stand in line, Brantley said by e-mail.
Some buyers may be able to convert to the new system for free, if they can prove the taxes theyve already paid exceed the new tax rate, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. Otherwise, they can opt in by paying the difference between the two.
The old system taxes vehicles annually at the local city or county millage rate. The new one-time tax is a flat 6.5 percent of fair market value. In 2014, the rate will rise to 6.75 percent, and to 7 percent in 2015, according to the original legislation.
The rate is calculated to bring in about the same amount as current ad valorem taxes. If it doesnt, the tax can be adjusted downward, or up to a maximum of 9 percent, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
Non-titled vehicles such as trailers and other non-motorized vehicles will remain subject to the annual ad valorem tax, according to the state.
The Georgia Department of Revenues website answers common questions about the tax change. It also includes a calculator to help recent buyers decide whether to opt into the new system: www.newtitletax.com.
The Department of Revenue is working with Georgia county tax officials to implement the new law and keep up with the last-minute changes, Seymour said.
Overall the implementation is going well, he said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.