Car Tag Question Could Become Complicated Law, Opponets Say

Thursday, August 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A state question to lower the price of car tags and change the way excise taxes are figured in Oklahoma could create a short-term loophole in the law. If the referendum is passed by voters on Tuesday, the loophole could give people buying automobiles before October 1st . Current tag laws have a little known feature, which in concert with the state question on the ballot could give an advantage to people buying cars, but only for the next six weeks. If there is anything certain about the state question on car tags, it is that the law is so complicated it treats almost every car differently. Buyers would be able to pay lower excise taxes under the current law, and buy a lower priced tag under the new law. They could then bridge the gap with a short-term tag. "When you buy a new car or any car, we can sell you a tag for any length of time from three months to fifteen months," said Jim Barnes, owner of Barnes Tag Agency.

The three-month tags have a pro-rated price tag figured at a fourth of the cost of an annual tag for new cars, which is a tremendous savings. Barnes says there’s nothing to prevent people from taking advantage of both laws. “If you buy a three month tag and your tag renews in three months, then it would be at the lower rate,” he said. State representative Todd Hiett is the leading opponent of the state question. If the referendum is approved by voters, Hiett said, "I bet we'll see a lot of three month tags."

Supporters have begun a media campaign to get the measure passed. Their message touts that if the state question is approved it means lower tag prices with a maximum of $85. This is one of the few absolute certainties of the new law, which is loaded with features that may not be completely understood until long after voters have to make their decision at the polls.

Representative Hiett says if all of the people buying cars over the next month and a half took advantage of the loophole, it could throw off the tax projections that state lawmakers used to draft the question.