Is county missing out on thousands of dollars from tags, taxes and mobile homes?

Published 12:20 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016

NATCHEZ — If you owe the county money, you better be making plans to pay, the Adams County supervisors collectively said Monday.

The board and Adams County Tax Collector Peter Burns said some county residents are not paying their fair share of taxes when it comes to car tags, personal property of a business and mobile home registrations.

“Our county loses quite a bit of revenue (from cars that are not registered according to the law),” Burns said. “I have no idea how much, because the cars are not registered as they should be.”

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Burns spoke to the supervisors in response to a recent discussion the board had about illegal car tags.

“I understand that taxpayers don’t always know the law,” Burns said.

Burns said all vehicles must be registered at the location the vehicle is domiciled, a term the state uses that in most cases means where the car is stored at night.

For residents, most vehicles are registered where the owner files homestead exemption, Burns said. County residents who either own or lease a vehicle must register at least one vehicle in the county in which the resident resides, Burns said.

If vehicles are left at a hunting camp, farm or other piece of property away from home, the vehicle may be registered where the property is as long as the vehicle spends the majority of the time on that property.

For businesses, vehicles should be registered where they are stored. If an employee takes a vehicle home at night, it should be registered where the employee lives, Burns said.

Some exceptions to those guidelines doe exist, Burns said. College students do not have to have a tag from where their school is located. Similarly, military personnel are not required to get a tag from where they are stationed.

Burns said residents who buy a car in the state have seven business days to register their vehicle. If a car is purchased out of state, residents have nine business days to register the vehicle.

Supervisors president Mike Lazarus said illegal car tags are a serious concern for the county.

“All I am asking people to do is to follow the law,” Lazarus said. “We are getting phone calls from residents saying, ‘I am paying my taxes when my next door neighbor over here has a Louisiana tag on his car.’”

Burns said vehicles found registered in the wrong county or state are considered not to be registered at all. Owners of such cars are liable for all of the taxes due plus a 25-percent penalty, with no credit allowed for the incorrect taxes paid.

Lazarus said the county is not planning immediate action.

“We are going to claim that people are naïve to the law and give them a chance to make it right,” Lazarus said. “We are going to wait a month or so, and we may revisit hiring an inspector or part-time worker.”

County Attorney Scott Slover offered an additional solution that he said would not cost the county additional money.

“A couple of supervisors came up with the brilliant idea of cross-referencing the homestead exemption filings with those who have registered car tags,” Slover said.

Doing so would identify those who might be trying to skirt the law, Slover said.

Burns said his office is also paying more attention to two other areas of concern — personal property of businesses and mobile home registrations.

Burns said several local businesses that, for whatever reason, do not feel they need to pay taxes on their personal property, which includes furniture, equipment, inventory and other items.

“I have a list of businesses that are operating businesses that haven’t paid what they owe,” Burns said. “Some on the list haven’t paid in four or five years.”

Burns said a 1-percent penalty exists per month on the taxes that are unpaid.

Some bills reach into the tens of thousands of dollars and continue to grow each month, Burns said after the meeting.

“We are in the process of hiring another collections agency and hopefully that will help,” Burns said.

Burns also said that mobile home registration is also a problem for the county and other counties in the state.

All mobile homes are required to be registered, Burns said. If the owner of a mobile home also owns the land on which the mobile home sits, the mobile home is registered with the tax assessor. Other mobile homes are registered with the tax collector, Burns said.

“Either way taxes are due on each and every mobile home,” Burns said.

Lazarus said he met with Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten and Burns, and they decided they are going to do whatever they need to do to get the tax money that is owed to the county.

Lazarus said he doesn’t know how much is owed the county, but considering some of the numbers he has seen, the amount could reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“If you owe something out there, if I were you, I would be trying to make a plan to pay it,” Lazarus said. “We are going to come get our money.”