Tax commissioners urge patience with new auto taxes

Tax commissioners from six area counties on Tuesday urged vehicle owners to have patience with their staffers and consider staying away from the tax office this Friday unless they have urgent business.


Friday is the day when changes to Georgia’s automobile taxes take effect, but unless their taxes are due in March, those who have to make decisions have more time to do so, said Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steven Kendrick.

“March 1 is the day it starts, but March 1 is not the only day it will happen,” he told a small group gathered at Bobby Jones Ford in Augusta. “Everyone doesn’t have to come to the tax office on March 1 to opt in to this program.”

Kendrick, along with tax commissioners from Burke, Columbia, Jefferson, Lincoln, McDuffie and Warren counties, issued a joint statement in an effort to get the word out about the new law and how it will affect car owners.

The law replaces the yearly ad valorem tax, or “birthday tax,” on vehicles with a one-time “title tax” of 6.5 percent when a vehicle is purchased or transferred to another party.

“What most people have heard is that the birthday tax is going away,” Kendrick said. “What we are here to say is that in some regard that is true.”

Kendrick said there are three main categories of car owners who will be affected:

• Residents who who bought a car before Jan. 1, 2012, will continue to see yearly ad valorem tax bills due on their birthdays.

• Those who buy cars starting Friday will be exempt from sales tax on the vehicle, and they will not pay the birthday tax. They will pay only the one-time title tax.

• Residents who purchased a car between Jan. 1, 2012, and the end of this month may “opt in” to the new title tax, or they may continue to pay the birthday tax each year.

The Georgia Department of Revenue has an online calculator at that can help residents decide what option is best for them.

One provision of the new law allows people to transfer vehicles to immediate family members for a reduced title tax of 0.5 percent, but that is only if they have already paid the full 6.5 percent title tax in a previous transfer, said Takiyah Douse, the director of Richmond County’s Motor Vehicle Division.

Douse said people will have to sign an affidavit swearing they are related to take advantage of the reduced rate.

The new law will have it’s biggest effect on sales between private individuals, Douse said. Those sales were exempt from sales tax, but now will be subject to the title tax. Douse emphasized that for used cars, the tax will be based on the vehicle’s fair market value, not the purchase price.

She said the tax will have to be paid to register the vehicle and receive a tag.

Richmond County tag offices will be open normal hours Friday, but other counties, including Burke, will be closed part of the day for training.

Columbia County Commissioner Kay Allen said her office will be closed Friday morning to give her staff time to become accustomed to the new system. She expected longer waiting times Friday afternoon because there will be more information to gather.

“We are going to be asking a lot of questions,” Allen said. “Friday morning, we are going to take time and we are going to practice.”

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Is the TSPLOST sales tax also exempted on a motor vehicle sale?

No, there is an exception to the sales tax exemption in the case of TSPLOST.

Purchasers who live in counties that impose the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will pay a 1 percent sales tax on the first $5,000 of the car’s purchase price, in addition to paying the title tax.

That would limit the amount of TSPLOST on a vehicle purchase to $50.




The new law affects taxpayers in three ways. These changes also apply to private sales between individuals.


• You will pay a one-time “title tax” of 6.5 percent, based on the fair market value of the vehicle.

• You will not pay sales tax on the purchase of the vehicle.

• You will not pay yearly ad valorem tax when renewing the vehicle registration.


• You will have the option to pay the one-time title tax or continue paying yearly ad valorem.


• You will continue paying ad valorem each year until the vehicle is sold or disposed of.


The following items are needed for tag registration in Richmond County:

• Georgia driver’s license with current address

• Bill of sale or title for vehicle model 1985 or newer

• 30-day insurance binder for proof of Georgia insurance

• Lienholder name and address (if applicable)

Use the Department of Revenue's Title vs. Ad Valorem Tax Calculator