Red Stickers in VA
January 10, 2005 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Virginia drivers- what the heck are those little red stickers in everyone's windshield? (MI)

I moved to Alexandria mid-October. I brought my car down from NJ after Thanksgiving, and transferred the title. So the car is now licensed and registered in Virginia.

I noticed in my apartment's parking lot that most, but not all, the cars have little red stickers next to the incpection certificate that just have a white seal and "city of Alexandria" on it. In Arlington, they say "county of Arlington."

I've already shelled out for the inspection fees, the emissions fees, and my vehicle registration and plate fees... is this something else I'm supposed to be paying for? Am I already in trouble for not having this? Virginia's DMV page has been less than clear on what these things are (go fig)
posted by XQUZYPHYR to Travel & Transportation around Virginia (14 answers total)
from Arlington Virginia Treasurer's Office:

Vehicles Taxed in Arlington

Vehicles registered in Arlington County will be taxed. Vehicles not registered with the Virginia State Department of Motor Vehicles or Arlington County are also subject to tax if the vehicle is normally garaged, stored, or parked in Arlington, with the exception of those exempted by law.


County Decals

Most cities and counties of Virginia require a county decal to be displayed on the front windshield of each vehicle next to the State inspection sticker. All personal property taxes and outstanding parking violations must be paid before a decal is issued for any vehicles registered to that owner.

Arlington County Police will ticket all vehicles garaged, stored, or parked in Arlington County which do not display a valid Arlington County decal. Furthermore, beginning on November 16, police departments of surrounding jurisdictions will issue tickets to Arlington-based vehicles which are not displaying a valid Arlington decal.

An Arlington County decal is required to be displayed within 30 days of the vehicle's entrance into Arlington or within 30 days of purchasing the vehicle to be located in the County. Present the valid state registration for each vehicle to the Commissioner of the Revenue for newly registered vehicles. Upon payment of all outstanding Arlington County personal property taxes and parking tickets, a decal will be issued. The new decals will be available in the summer. The decal fee is $24 per year.
posted by davey_darling at 7:11 AM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: davey- hmmm..... I live (and garage) in Alexandria, not Arlington, but I guess there's the same rules here as well... I'll see if I can find an office in Alexandria to call.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:20 AM on January 10, 2005

How 'bout this then? Seems to say that you'll need to go pay $25 bucks to get your sticker.
posted by davey_darling at 7:29 AM on January 10, 2005

Another thing that town stickers are used for is to determine access to the local garbage/recycling dumping station. Don't know if that applies to Virginia though.
posted by smackfu at 7:39 AM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: Hmm... yeah, I called the number on that page, the woman told me I need to come in during times I can never be there because I, you know, work and stuff. I just filled out the thingie online- luckily the DMV has online records so I can access my title and VIN.

I'm starting to be amazed at the sheer number of times I have to give someone money for a little sticker to put on my car.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:44 AM on January 10, 2005

Some more details about "those stickers". In Virginia, there is a personal property assessed on cars and other vehicles that is paid to your county, town/county split, or your city (since counties and cities are distinct entities in VA). However, as part of a a "car-tax relief act" a few years ago, the Commonwealth of Virginia will pay 80% of your car tax owed, upto some value of your car. In addition, you have to pay, normally about $25, to get the decal itself. That money goes directly to your local government.

The way it is supposed to work is that after you register you car with the DMV, your local government sends you a letter informing you that you have to pay to get the sticker and then at a set point in the year, they send you a prorated tax bill for the time the car has been in the given locality. I don't think they normally try to charge extra if you're late getting a sticker, but if you're too late in doing it you might owe back taxes. The main thing that can happen is if a cop (in either DC or VA (yes, DC fines for things like this)) notices that you have a normal VA tag but no locality sticker, they can write you a ticket.

On preview, the the tax rate in Alexandria seems to be currently $4.75 per $100 assessed value and then about 80% of that (Alexandria tax rates).

By the way, I hope the reason you had to look up your VIN number is because you're at work and the title is at hope, not that you've already lost your title number :). Although, your car's registration has the title number and VIN on it, and you should keep your registration with you and not in the car.
posted by skynxnex at 7:54 AM on January 10, 2005

skynxnex got it right - you have to pay the car tax every year to get your sticker. See here and click on filing instructions. I think there's a fee to register, but then you have to pay the tax every year to get your sticker.
posted by drobot at 8:25 AM on January 10, 2005

Man, that's nasty. Remind me not to move to Virginia.
posted by knave at 9:01 AM on January 10, 2005

Note that the car tax exists to fund localities, not the state. I don't care where in the country that you live, you're paying the money. It might be coming out of your income, it might be coming out of increased fees for services, it might be coming out of your property taxes. All taxes are a shell game -- it takes $X to run the government. We just happen to take it out of car value.
posted by waldo at 9:19 AM on January 10, 2005

As I understand it they're pretty aggressive about finding and ticketing untaxed vehicles in Virginia. In Fairfax County, for example, I've seen them set up at heavily trafficked intersections at rush hour, and inspect the windshields of cars that creep past. And I'm pretty sure they'll come onto the property of your apartment complex to check the windshields of cars in the lots.
posted by coelecanth at 11:13 AM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: Well, the treasurer's office is only open during hours I'm at work, and they're closed this weekend because of the MLK holiday. So I submitted online. Apparently they have to mail me my tax bill, then they'll send me the sticker after I pay them.

I've managed to go a month, apparently, without getting snagged by the cops for not having a sticker. Right now my car's parked in the private lot of my apartment with the windshield facing a brick wall and bushes, so I'd be very suprised if a cop started investigating. I guess it'll just stay there until I get the sticker. Knowing my luck, I'll have a ticket waiting for me when I get home.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:45 AM on January 10, 2005

oh good heavens! get your alexandria city sticker! when i was in law school, my car (registered in illinois and garaged in DC) was ticketed when i spent the night in alexandria for not having a city sticker. i tried to pay the fine, but wasn't permitted to until i showed proof that i had purchased my city sticker, which i wasn't allowed to do because i didn't live in alexandria. i got two more tickets and a notice that my car would be impounded for failure to purchase a city sticker and failure to pay the tickets, which i couldn't do because my car was not registered in VA.

eventually, i just sold the car and moved back to chicago.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2005

XQUZYPHYR: I think you've gotten by since they tend to their heavest enforcement shortly after the you have to buy the new sticker. Although in general my sense is that the NoVA localities have gotten pretty lax in the last few years about ticketing cars without stickers. I still see cars driving around with no sticker/old sticker. I doubt any cop in VA will ticket you when you're parked, unless someone reports your car. When you're driving, carry a printed copy of the receipt from the online form since you'll be more likely to get a cop to not write you a ticket with it.

If what you've said is really how Alexandria does it, Fairfax county sounds nicer. You can pay $25 online and they send you a sticker in 3-14 days right away. They then send you the tax bill that's due in Febuary or October (whichever one is next). Heck, with one car when I took title on it, I paid everything but they ended up refunding me the $25 for the sticker since it had been already had a Fairfax county sticker for that year (I think).
posted by skynxnex at 1:39 PM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: skynxnex- almost. I didn't send any money; only reported my car. They have to send me a bill, then I have to send them money, THEN they send me a sticker. If they give me a receipt, I'll put that in the window until the sticker comes. Other than that I'll make a sign saying "sticker in the mail, have mercy!" ;)

To be honest, I Metro to work and my grocery store's in walking distance, so grudgingly I can honestly leave the car where it is for two weeks if I really have to.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:00 PM on January 10, 2005

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