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Hate paying the car tax? Task force out with ideas to end it

On Tuesday, a state task force recommended ways to finally get rid of it. But the panel’s own members don’t agree with the solutions.

John Craven

Feb 6, 2024, 10:49 PM

Updated 161 days ago

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You know the saying: “Only two things in life are certain – death and taxes.”
Another certainty in Connecticut? People hate the car tax.
On Tuesday, a state task force recommended ways to finally get rid of it. But the panel’s own members don’t agree with the solutions.
HATED TAX
Connecticut is one of a handful of states where cities and towns charge a property tax on automobiles. It raises approximately $1 billion for roads, schools and basic services.
But drivers hate it.
“It would be nice if I didn’t have to pay so much,” said Joy Johansen, of Norwalk.
For decades, state lawmakers have tried – and failed – to replace the tax. Over the past three months, a new task force gave it another shot. The group issued its final report on Tuesday, but members refused to endorse it.
“We need to do more work, and I am not endorsing this report because it’s not ready yet,” said Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Mark Boughton, a member of the panel. 
POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
The task force’s 62-page report made two recommendations.
Option 1 would replace lost car tax money by shifting the burden to home and building owners. Right now, you only pay property taxes on 70% of your home's market value. Under the proposal, towns and cities would be allowed to charge a higher “assessment ratio” to make up for lost car tax revenue.
One Norwalk driver dismissed that idea.
“No, I pay enough property tax,” he said. “If they keep on doing this, I’ll just have to move out of the state.”
Option 2 would keep the car tax, but only for commercial vehicles. That would still leave towns with a budget hole, potentially for the state to plug.
Task force members said they couldn’t endorse the recommendations until they had specifics about how much each option would cost all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut.
“There is a need for a continued look at comprehensive property tax reform,” said Mayor Ben Florsheim (D-Middletown).
OTHER OPTIONS?
The task force also considered an extra fuel tax – perhaps only on gas-guzzling vehicles – or an added fee on insurance carriers.
One driver said towns need to swallow the loss and simply cut their budgets.
“Have you looked at the local roads lately?” he asked. “I don’t know where the money’s going, but it's not going where it’s supposed to.”
WHAT’S NEXT?
Drivers already got some relief in 2022, when the state capped car tax rates at 32.46 mills.
But rates are still wildly unequal. Take your tax bill for a car worth $25,000 (with a taxable value of $17,500, because Connecticut only taxes the first 70% of assessed value):
  • Bridgeport: $568
  • Fairfield: $481
  • Greenwich: $199
And that’s if car owners even pay the tax. Many simply evade it, opting to register their cars in other states, or in towns with a lower tax rate.
The task force’s work may not be over just yet. Lawmakers could give them more time to look at more solutions.


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