Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another Taxing Birthday

My birthday’s coming up….I can feel it (and not just when I crawl out of bed either). You see, among the many benefits I discovered after moving to Georgia is the State won’t let you forget your birthday. Your spouse might forget, your kids might forget, or you may even try to deny you have a birthday, but the State never forgets. In fact, they’re always the first to recognize your birthday, usually weeks in advance, in the form of a notice delivered in a plain white envelope marked with a return address that says, “State Department of Revenue”.

How thoughtful; an entire State Department office dedicated solely to sending out birthday notices. Almost seems like Southern hospitality at its finest, eh? As if the State has usurped your grandparents role in relishing your special day. It’s truly heartwarming…until you open the envelope.

You see, stuffed inside that State envelope is not a birthday card with a bunny rabbit bobbing on a spring and little star-shaped confetti flakes and giant glittery letters saying, “HOPPING DOWN YOUR BIRTHDAY TRAIL!” No, no, no. Instead, it’s stuffed with a spring-loaded boxing glove…in the shape of a bill…that strikes you just below the waist.

“Happy Birthday,” says the State as you’re doubled-over on the floor, “Now pay up!”

Presently, the State calls this bill an “Ad Valorem Tax”, (which is fancy political speak for “bend over”) rather than calling it what it really is: a “Birthday Tax”, (‘cause them savvy voters would see right through that) and I, for one, agree with the State; I don’t like to call it a “Birthday Tax” either. Instead, I like to refer to it as an “Honesty Tax”. Let me explain…

This particular tax is associated with the annual renewal of our motor vehicle registration, which the State decided it needed to collect on our birthdays. So, for a small ad valorem *fee* (equivalent to an all-expense weekend at Disney World) and a mandatory emissions testing fee, you’ll receive a sticker for your license plate that says, “I’ve been State raped, how ‘bout you?” (well, not in so many words, but you get the point). The State, so far as we know, uses this money for breeding construction barrels.

This violation of your personal income is avoidable, however, if you’re the conniving type.

[For those honest-types in the crowd who prefer to remain innocent, you may want to cover your ears and continuously chant, “la la la la la la la…,” until I’ve finished. I’ll wave my arms when it’s all clear.]

You may have noticed, while traveling through our fair city, we have numerous out of state license plates from such faraway exotic places as: Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, and Canada. No big deal, eh? People travel all the time and Atlanta is just among the many cities people travel through, right? Well, to the casual observer, this seems normal…except many of those out-of-towners RESIDE HERE.

Yes, many of those out of state plates (who routinely jam our streets, who cut us off on the highway and steal a place in the turn lanes like a grizzled veteran of our roadways) rarely cross the state line, because they live here. THIS is their primary residence, that is, until it’s time to renew their car tags. Then they claim residence in another state and pay the equivalent of an extra-value meal for their tag renewal, while the rest of us honest citizens are getting rolled in the back alley of the State House to compensate for the shortfall of revenue.

Even more underhanded are the motorists who fake, or alter, dealer tags.

In Georgia, you can drive around your newly aquired vehicle without a license plate, provided you have a dealer tag (which is nothing more than a cardboard tag with the car dealer’s name and a hand-written expiration date…that's easily altered with a black marker). Or, in the event your tag is lost or stolen, you can create your own tag out of anything (usually a tortilla box top) and scrawl, “TAG APPLIED FOR” on it (in your best English). This gives the State 90-days to carefully handcraft you a replacement tag…but 90-days from WHEN?!

Oftentimes, the motorists who abuse the “temporary tag” system are hardly even trying to fool the authorities. They careen through traffic with their weather-faded, obviously-altered tags like they own their vehicles. Is THIS not covered at the Police Academy?

I once suggested the State credit each motorist with $50 off their next renewal for each illegal tag they identified, but the strands of confetti streaming out of the bottom of the suggestion box indicated they weren’t too concerned with my suggestions anyway.

[~Waving Arms~] ...for the return of the innocent.

and THAT, my friends, is how you can save hundreds on your annual car expenses.

Now if you'll excuse me, this honest old man is determined to figure out why the guy at the emissions center doesn’t greet everyone with a cupcake and a “Happy Birthday!”

Copywrite 2009 Rick Rantamaki

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