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Georgia law on March 1 does away with ad valorem tax on vehicles

Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 3:37 PM
Last updated Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013 2:10 AM
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If you own a car, everything about your taxes changes Friday – or not.

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Salesman John Bowers (from left) helps Elizabeth and David Rollins, of Augusta, shop for a vehicle at Bobby Jones Ford on Wrightsboro Road. Changes to Georgia's automobile taxes will take effect March 1.   EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Salesman John Bowers (from left) helps Elizabeth and David Rollins, of Augusta, shop for a vehicle at Bobby Jones Ford on Wrightsboro Road. Changes to Georgia's automobile taxes will take effect March 1.

Most people will see no immediate effect from changes that will overhaul the way Georgia taxes motor vehicles, said Richmond County Tax Commissioner Steve Kendrick.

“For the majority of folks, nothing will be different,” he said.

That majority is defined as people who haven’t purchased a car recently and those who don’t intend to buy one, he said. Those who bought a vehicle in the past 14 months or intend to make such a purchase, however, will see big changes.

For those residents, a new state law takes effect that does away with the ad val­orem tax, or “birthday tax,” and replaces it with a one-time “title tax,” which is due when someone buys a new or used vehicle.

Anyone who buys a car after Friday – from a dealer or from an individual – will be subject to a 6.5 percent title tax, based on the vehicle’s fair market value, said Takiyah Douse, the director of the tax commissioner’s Motor Vehicle Division.

Douse said the department expects a lot of people to line up at county tag offices Friday, but unless someone has a bill due March 1, there’s no reason to rush to do anything.

“March 1 is just the beginning,” she said. “It is not the end all, be all day for car taxes.”

Option for some

Douse said most car owners will fall into three categories when it comes to the new tax.

First, there are those who bought a car before Jan. 1, 2012. Those residents will continue to see yearly ad valorem tax bills due on their birthdays, just as they have been, she said.

“The birthday tax is not going away,” Douse said. “Those people will carry on as usual.”

Second are those who buy cars starting Friday. Their vehicles will be exempt from sales tax, and they will not pay the birthday tax. They will only pay the one-time title tax, she said.

“You pay that and you are done,” she said, explaining that those car owners will have to pay only the annual $20 tag fee when they renew their registration each year.

The third category is where people have options, Douse said. Residents who purchased a car between Jan. 1, 2012, and the end of February 2013 may “opt in” to the new title tax, or they may continue to pay the birthday tax each year.

Whether that’s the cheaper option depends on a few factors, such as the value of the vehicle, the amount of tax you have already paid – sales and ad valorem – and how long you intend to keep the car, she said.

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

In general, people who bought a new car they intend to keep for several years would be better off opting for the new title tax. Someone who bought a used car from another individual in a private transaction might not, Douse said.

People in the third category have until Dec. 31 to decide, although if their taxes are due earlier because of their birthday, it would be best to decide by that deadline, she said.

Private sales

Douse said the law will have the largest impact on private sales between individuals. Currently, someone who buys a car from another person does not pay sales tax and has to pay only an annual ad valorem tax. After March 1, they will be subject to the 6.5 percent title tax like everyone else.

Douse said people need to remember the tax is based on fair market value, not the purchase price, so even if you get a great deal from a friend, the taxes will reflect the value of the car.

Those who trade in a car at a dealer can also deduct the trade-in amount from the fair market value, which will reduce the amount of taxes paid, she said.

Douse said those who are exempt from ad valorem taxes, such as disabled veterans, will continue to be exempt from the title tax under the new law.

Also, the law does not affect out-of-state purchases. If someone buys a car in South Carolina and registers it in Georgia, they will be subject to the annual ad valorem tax, she said.

Family loophole

There is one loophole in the law that Douse expects many people will take advantage of in the next year. The law allows people to buy cars from an immediate family member and pay only a one-time title tax of 0.5 percent of the fair market value. Those who take advantage of that option won’t have to pay annual taxes on the vehicle.

“I think everybody in Richmond County is going to be related to each other,” she joked.

David and Elizabeth Rollins were at Bobby Jones Ford on Tuesday trying to decide when to buy a 2013 Ford Edge. They said the changes to the tax law were a puzzle they didn’t understand.

“There hasn’t been much information about it that I have seen,” Elizabeth Rollins said.

Salesman John Bowers explained that if they waited until after March 1, they would pay only the 6.5 percent title tax. They learned they wouldn’t have to pay sales tax, either.

“We will definitely be coming back,” Rollins said.

Bowers said he has been answering a lot of questions about the new law. Many people are waiting to buy a car until after it takes effect.

“It looks like March is going to be a busy month,” he said.


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.

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trimmy 02/23/13 - 04:59 pm
tax on vehicles

I'm not confused on the new tax law on purchases of vehicles between private parties. It's just another fine example of politicians sucking the hard earned money out of your wallet. Instead of getting sales tax just on purchases from dealers, they want it all. Business as usual.

lh 02/23/13 - 06:23 pm
Sound like we have been

Sound like we have been double tax for a long time by the state and county.

zippy 02/23/13 - 07:30 pm
So why dies the new way

So why dies the new way "title tax" is paid effect sales tax on a new car purchase? Or did I read that wrong? It is two different taxes

nocnoc 02/24/13 - 08:33 am
It sounds complicated but......

But all it is, is a TAX INCREASE

1995 Buick current 2013 ad valorem tax is a little over $15.00 and using the state valuation figures.

However, going forward.
The tax will be based on sales price.
Using the new sales tax formula and Kelly Blue Book Fair Market. The Buick Park Ave, with 158K miles in good condition, sold in a Private sale has a value of: $1,785.00, or a sales tax of $116.03. or 7+ years of AV taxes upfront.

So this is just a way to collect more taxes up front for used cars that will not be around in 10 years, let alone likely another 5.

Want to bet they develop a vehicle disposal tax scheme over the next few years?

soapy_725 02/24/13 - 10:39 am
How is this one for you?

A new vehicle purchased August 1. 2012 and paid $3100 (7 %)in GA Sales Tax. Paid a Title Fee. Always have paid a title fee.

Now the option is to pay another $2600 in 2013 as a Title Fee. The vehicle is already titled in GA? Or pay $1000 per year in AV for three years.

And if you leased a vehicle. You paid 7% last year and they will collect an additional 1% this year and the remainder of the lease.

Public servants. If they are not thieves when they run for office, they shortly get a license to steal.

Can't wait to see their overhaul of the GA Income Tax.

Line 1- Name
Line 2- SS number
Line 3- Send all of your money to Atlanta (not already sent to DC)

The CC Tag Office last fall made it appear that the 7% GA sales tax collected at purchase would preclude the paying of any future birthday tax. They made it sound like a "win win" for the public. They did not mention another almost 7% tax for this privilege. Just paid 7%, but will owe an additional 7%.

Now we know how they are paying for their new beautiful state of the artist office.

soapy_725 02/24/13 - 11:10 am
It will also once and for all do away with the

"$1 and other considerations" clause in a private sale that allowed the purchaser or title-ee to determine the value for sales tax purposes.

soapy_725 02/24/13 - 11:19 am
The GA calculator ????

A $40,000 vehicle purchased in Sep '12 and had $3100 GA sales tax and $18 title fee collected at time of sale could opt into the new system and only pay the tag fee for the years of their ownership. ZERO Title Tax Ad Valorem Fee.

Opt out and for annual birthday ad valorem and pay $300+ per year for who knows.

Darby 02/24/13 - 12:05 pm
I bought a new car last fall.....

Now, if I understand this gobbledygook, I get some sort of "choice" to “opt in” to the new title tax, or continue to pay the birthday tax each year.

Those morons in Atlanta just can't leave well enough alone can they?

soapy_725 02/24/13 - 01:27 pm
Charitable donation of vehicles?

Seems that currently you can claim on your taxes the amount the vehicle brings at a auction. Not the appraised or BB value. So when someone buys the donated vehicle, say for $200 at auction, the state will determine the actual value, i.e $2000, and tax you as such.

This may reduce the number of vehicles donated to local charities who auction off cars? ???

IsAmericaFree 02/25/13 - 07:34 am
no sales tax

Here's how it works. There will be no sales tax on the purchase after March 1 (8 %). There will be no annual ad valorem on that purchase either. Only the 6.5% title tax applies. where they get you is on private party sales. They where previously exempt from sales tax. You only paid ad valorem on those. If you lease, you will be taxed for title and sales taxes.

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