New effort to get rid of CT’s car tax. Will it work this time?

For decades, state lawmakers have tried – and failed – to replace the local property tax on automobiles. On Monday, a new task force launched to try again.

John Craven

Oct 23, 2023, 9:41 PM

Updated 217 days ago

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Hate paying Connecticut’s car tax? Most people do.
For decades, state lawmakers have tried – and failed – to replace the local property tax on automobiles. On Monday, a new task force launched to try again.
TACKLING THE TAX
The car tax is deeply unpopular.
“I lived in New York, and we never paid a tax,” said Joy Skowronski, a driver from Westport. “So I don't know why we should.”
Earlier this year, lawmakers created a bi-partisan task force to examine ways to replace the tax, or at least reform it. The group includes state lawmakers, tax and budget agencies, as well as local government leaders.
But getting rid of it won’t be easy – or cheap.
Cities and towns levy the property tax, and use it to pay for roads, schools and basic services. Repealing it could cost communities more than $1 billion per year, according to the state budget office.
Places like Windsor Locks could get hit especially hard. Thanks to Bradley International Airport’s rental car business, car taxes make up 10% of the town’s budget.
“We have our wonderful airport, which roughly generates in car tax – in the car rentals – roughly about $5 million a year,” said Republican First Selectman Paul Harrington.
MAKING THE TAX FAIRER
Drivers got some relief last year, 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
“Motor vehicle tax is one of the most onerous and regressive taxes working people face in the state,” said state Rep. Brandon Chafee (D-Middletown), the task force’s co-chair.
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.
“I will tell you, as a mayor for 20 years prior to this, this is one of the most onerous, difficult, challenging, pain-in-the-neck taxes you ever possibly can collect,” said Connecticut Department of Revenue Services commissioner Mark Boughton.
NO EASY SOLUTIONS
None of the solutions are particularly popular.
A statewide car tax would be fairer, but drivers in lower-tax communities like Greenwich could end up paying more.
Other options include higher local property taxes, higher sales taxes or a new tax on insurance premiums.
“They should eliminate it and lower all the taxes,” said John Krondes, a driver from Stamford.
Some Republicans agreed. They said the task force should go beyond cutting automobile taxes.
“Obviously, the ways in which the state government contributes to that high tax burden, whether it’s mandates of different kinds and other policies and measures that give Connecticut a higher property tax burden than the rest of the country,” said state Sen. Ryan Fazio (R-Greenwich).
In the “Land of Steady Habits,” drivers are skeptical that the car tax will go away anytime soon.
"Nothing’s done quickly,” said Skowronski. “Everything takes time.”
The task force itself has to act fast. It’s set to make recommendations to state lawmakers by February.


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