Car Death and Taxes
February 25, 2012 7:40 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop paying vehicle excise tax in RI when I haven't lived there in years and I don't even own the car anymore?

I registered my car in Rhode Island about 3 years ago, but moved to PA a year after that and reregistered here. Today I got a letter saying I owe RI excise tax because I never cancelled my registration. It says you need to send back your plates to cancel, but I threw mine out when I moved to PA. I don't even have the car anymore (I donated it this summer). Can I use the proof of donation to cancel my registration? Should I just wait for the registration to expire? How long does that take?
posted by d(-_-)b to Law & Government (4 answers total)
Yeah, you're supposed to return the plates, so it might become difficult to get out of paying the excise tax if you no longer have them. What city was it in RI? I'm fairly sure the vehicle excise tax is a city tax, and not a state tax. I know Providence is pretty desperate for money, and they've been sending out letters to people who own homes in Providence but register their cars in other cities threating to take away a homestead tax deduction unless they register their cars in Providence and pay the excise tax. Warwick and Cranston are pretty desperate as well. It's been a big issue around here...

Also, RI registration is every two years, so its probably already expired.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 7:50 AM on February 25, 2012

They will not relent or stop charging you new taxes even after the registration has expired. You need to either return the plates to the DMV or sign an affidavit stating that you lost them. You will need to contact the city or the collector and settle your account with them.
posted by mkb at 11:34 AM on February 25, 2012

Response by poster: If registration is every two years, I think I'm fine. According to the people mailing me, they stop assessing new taxes after registration expires. The amount itself isn't high so I'll probably just pay it. Still, desperation is a stinky cologne.

Thanks guys.
posted by d(-_-)b at 2:46 PM on February 25, 2012

I'm a Rhode Islander, but have been living in California for years. I've also had the same problem you have. Don't call and say what you said above, because the people there are required not to listen or respond to anything but a direct, simple request.

Say in a friendly manner and with a smile in your voice, "I need to report lost license plates. Can you help me?" When they say dully that you have to come in and fill out the lawst awe stollen plates fawm, say, "Unfortunately I live in Pennsylvania. How can I get a form?" That might work. If not, ask if there's someone else you should talk to who can help you out.

After you submit the form, you need to call the office that's sending you the tax bills. Act like the person on the other end is very nice but having a terrible day. Say, "I'm getting billed for taxes on a car I don't own any more. What do I need to do?" Keep it very specific.

I always have best results with RI bureaucracy when I take the attitude that I've gotten myself into a difficult spot and I'm somewhat sheepishly asking for assistance.

Let me know if you want my sista to cawl them faw you.
posted by wryly at 2:48 PM on February 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

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