Authorities say that more than 14,000 Nebraskans are currently in violation of the law for improperly registering their motor vehicles and it's costing the state and honest taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenues.
The numbers were calculated during a two-month investigation by the Auto Fraud Division of the Nebraska State Patrol. Officials say that the potential violations involve vehicles illegally registered in Iowa and South Dakota.
“Nebraska residents who fail to properly title and register their vehicles are breaking the law," says Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Colonel Bryan Tuma. "These residents need to be aware they are costing the state of Nebraska millions of dollars in lost revenue and our investigators are actively pursuing those who choose to violate these laws.”
Who needs to change their plates from out-of-state to Nebraska? If you've lived in Nebraska for more than 30 days, you need to head to your local county treasurers office and change them. Otherwise you're facing a misdemeanor or even a felony.
"We are doing these investigations and if they persist with not complying with the law, that there's a good chance that one of our investigators will be knocking on their door," says Col. Tuma.
"Noncompliance with motor vehicle registration is not a victimless crime," says Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles director Beverly Neth. "When individuals make a choice to register their vehicles in other states, the law-abiding taxpayer is the victim.”
The Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Revenue has estimated citizens failing to properly title and register their vehicles are costing the state of Nebraska upwards of $11 million a year. This figure includes loss of revenue from motor vehicle taxes and fees as well as loss in sales tax revenue.
"These are fraud investigations where it's a deliberate, willful attempt to not pay the taxes or title the vehicle appropriately for the purpose of not paying as much in taxes," adds Col. Tuma.
It's not only fraud, it's considered a form of tax evasion which is a felony. There's already one arrest so far and others have willfully come forward to change their registration. That's what investigators hope others do. If you wait and don't comply, you might be looking at a felony charge.
Elizabeth Grandizio takes a drive to the Douglas County Treasurer's office every year. "We're just renewing our tags today." But not everyone who lives in Nebraska drives the straight and narrow.
"It is frustrating,” says Grandizio. “People need to be doing the honest thing and paying their taxes and doing what they need to do."
"The Department of Revenue is excited to partner with the State Patrol and the Department of Motor Vehicles to improve compliance with Nebraska’s motor vehicle registration laws," says Nebraska Tax Commissioner Doug Ewald. "Improved compliance creates a more equitable tax structure for all Nebraskans.”
The Nebraska State Patrol, Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles and the Nebraska Department of Revenue are conducting an ongoing investigation.
Investigators are starting with Iowa and South Dakota since they're the ones we see the most around here. They will eventually look into vehicles illegally registered in other states as well.
Meanwhile, licensing a vehicle in Iowa may not be quite the bargain it used to be. A bill is on its way to Gov. Chet Culver raising registration and title fees.
Registration fees would be set according to weight and value. Trucks used for business and farming will still get a break, but will go up to at least $100.
Certificate of title on all vehicles will go to $20. The idea is to raise about $160 million a year for road work without raising the gas tax. Gov. Culver is expected to sign it.