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Auditor braces for license tab rush

"The Island County Auditor’s Office is ready for an expected deluge of people wanting to renew their vehicle licenses after I-695 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2000.Many motor vehicle owners have been waiting to license their vehicles ever since I-695 passed in November. Many saved hundreds of dollars by waiting, but they will be anxious to get back on the road legally as soon as possible.The first day of business in the new year will be Monday, Jan. 3, 2000. Hours at the Courthouse in Coupeville will be from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.In addition to the Island County Courthouse and the Camano Annex, there are subagents on Whidbey Island: Oak Harbor Motors, Inc., 75 S.E. Pioneer Way, Oak Harbor, and Island Insurance Associates, 18205 Highway 525, Freeland. Subagents charge a $3 fee, but may have shorter lines.“Our office has had many calls from people with questions about how the new law will be implemented,” said Auditor Suzanne Sinclair, who offers the following information to answer people’s questions.As of Jan. 1, 2000, I-695 replaces the motor vehicle excise tax with a $30 license tab fee for motor vehicles, including cars, sport utility vehicles, motorcycles, and motor homes, but the initiative left intact other fees and taxes:* Gross weight fees, recreational vehicle fee, and small trailer fee.* Special plates, such as personalized plates, alumni plates, will pay an additional $30 fee. This money goes to support fish and wildlife programs, scholarships, and the state’s share of stadium construction.* There is a $3 filing fee. The subagents charge an additional $3.* Title fees will still include filing fees, subagent fees, inspection fees, trauma fees, title elimination fees, VIN assignment fees, and late transfer fees.The laws that are in effect on the date that the fees are paid determine how the fees are calculated. Sinclair said the January renewal notices normally mailed in mid-November were delayed until December. The renewal notices will be priced according to fees that are due if paid after Jan. 1, 2000. The February renewal notices will be mailed in early January.Renewing after Jan. 1 will not change the vehicle’s renewal date. If the tabs expired in November and they are not renewed until January, 2000, the next renewal date will still be November, 2000.Sinclair said January renewals mailed to her office will take longer than usual. This is because the Department of Licensing’s computer system will charge fees under the current law if the renewal is processed before Jan. 1, 2000. Therefore, in order to get the $30 tab fee, all of the January renewals will have to be processed after Jan. 1, 2000. “We will not return renewals sent to us before the new year,” Sinclair said. “We will process them on or after Jan. 3, 2000, unless the customer instructs otherwise and includes the proper fee.”Other mail renewals will take longer because of the volume. “We expect that the computer terminals available to us will be occupied with office traffic during the day and that mail will have to be processed in the evening,” Sinclair said. “This is why we are not offering expanded office hours.”Current refund statutes were not changed by I-695, so refunds are allowed only for very specific circumstances. There are no provisions that allow for someone who paid their fees prior to Jan. 1, 2000 for a January expiration or who renewed their November or December expirations before I-695 takes effect unless the requirements in current law are met."

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