State motorists should be waryof vehicle tax changes being considered by the Kansas Legislature, says a Douglas County official.
Douglas County Treasurer Nancy Hempen is keeping a close eye on a bill in the Kansas Legislature designed to do something about high motor vehicle taxes in Kansas.
Hempen says she's worried the bill could wind up shifting taxes from the owners of costly vehicles to medium-priced vehicles.
"I think it's a bill that somebody needs to be watching," Hempen said.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Les Donovan, R-Wichita, was approved Thursday by the House Taxation Committee and is expected to be debated next week by the full House.
Donovan, a Wichita car dealer, said that Kansans pay more than any other state in motor vehicle taxes.
"We don't mind KU being No. 1 in basketball, but we certainly don't want to be No. 1 in this ranking," he said.
For example, the cost of getting a license tag for a 1990 Ford Taurus, valued at $16,000, averaged $691 in Kansas compared with a national average of $153, he said. Mississippi has the second-highest cost, with a cost of $506, he said.
Donovan agreed with Hempen that under his bill, there would be some shifts from taxes paid by higher end vehicles to mid-range vehicles. Also, some counties would lose revenue and some would gain revenue, he said. But overall, the bill is designed to be revenue neutral statewide, he said.
The bill equalizes the cost of tagging a vehicle in all 105 counties by setting up a fee schedule based on vehicle type, age and value, rather than using individual counties' property tax rates, he said.
Currently, because of mill levy differences, the owner of a new car valued at $10,000 in Wyandotte County would pay about $510 in taxes, while the same car would cost its owner $192 in Coffey County, he said. If Donovan's bill passed, that car owner would pay about $240 wherever it was registered in the state, he said.
Donovan said because many people cheat and go to other states to register newer vehicles, the state loses a lot of tax revenue.
Studies indicate that while 32 percent of all vehicles registered in the United States are at least 10 years old, he said. But 58 percent of the registered vehicles in Kansas are 10 years old or older -- showing many Kansans are registering their cars outside the state, he said.
"One of the benefits of bill is it would bring in a tremendous amount of property tax and sales tax and would end a lot of cheating by registering out of state," he said.
Hempen said she was concerned the bill would shift taxes from people with higher incomes to those with moderate incomes.
"So far, what I see this bill doing is your Cadillacs, Mercedes, BMWs paying less tax and the Chevys and Fords paying more taxes," she said.
She said she did an analysis of about 30 cars, indicating that cars valued above $16,000 would pay less than they do now in Douglas County and cars in the $8,000 to $16,000 range would pay more. She said she didn't do an analysis for cars of less value.
Hempen said she might consider testifying on the bill if it gets to a Senate committee.