Town Pursues More Than $1 Million in Back Car Taxes 

by | Jan 19, 2020

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Town of East Greenwich is going after delinquent car tax bills from as far back as from 2010, placing a hold with the state DMV on the car owner’s registration until the back tax is paid. 

The total amount of money owed in November, when the town first started working to collect the unpaid taxes, was $1.2 million. As of last week, the town had collected more than $250,000, with 3,496 remaining delinquent accounts totalling $942,000.

Town Manager Andrew Nota said he had not yet ascertained whether or not the town had ever pursued unpaid car taxes. The state allows municipalities to collect taxes back 10 years so that is what East Greenwich is now doing. 

East Greenwich’s motor vehicle tax is $22.88 per $1,000 assessed value, so if your car is worth $15,000, your bill would be $342.

What that means in practical terms if yours is one of the delinquent accounts is that when you go to re-up your car registration, you will be told you can’t until you pay off your East Greenwich car tax bill. In East Greenwich. This holds even if you don’t live in East Greenwich any more and haven’t for years. In fact, said Nota, the majority of accounts do belong to people who no longer live in East Greenwich.

Nota said the idea was to develop a system to make sure this doesn’t happen again. There’s already a very successful system in place for unpaid property taxes – the tax sale. If you don’t pay up, you can lose your property. 

It’s been a busy time for the finance department, not just with delinquent car tax bills but in general. Leadership changes and staff reductions in recent years had left the department in a certain amount of disarray, including with regard to the town’s own bill paying.

Town Council President Mark Schwager said he learned the town was behind in paying its bills after the last election when he gained the presidency. 

“We were not meeting the 60-day standard,” he said. As of this month, however, the town is completely caught up. 

“We are paying bills as they are received so we are getting some discounts,” he said, crediting the finance department and Finance Director Patricia Sunderland.

If you think you may owe back car taxes, you can contact the Finance Department at (401) 886-8612 or [email protected].

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January 20, 2020 9:13 am

It may have been less complicated and more neighborly to first send out late-notice letters before involving the DMV. For instance, the town had cashed both our checks but applied them to incorrect accounts. Now the staff has mountains of accounts to sort through, while residents have legal notices from the DMV to deal with. Also car tax bills come across in the same design format as house tax notices. Might be better to differentiate the designs more to avoid confusion.

Kim Edge
Kim Edge
January 27, 2020 6:16 pm

I received a written DMV notice.

I checked my bank account, saw that our two checks had cleared, and called the town to figure out the confusion.

I was told that one problem they are having is folks putting their address on the check and not the account number from the statement, that causes them to have trouble applying the payment to the proper account.

I was informed that it was going to be a bit of work to straighten out my account. The woman was very kind and helpful on the phone, which is amazing considering, I don’ think they staffed-up to handle this big idea. She and I were both glad that I wasn’t due to renew car registration any time soon.

To my earlier point, I wish they had called or sent a late notice, before looping in the DMV. Maybe all that missing money, wasn’t just residents, maybe some was bad accounting.


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