Warren County vehicle owners can chalk up their higher tax bills to supply and demand and COVID-19.
Commissioner of Revenue Sherry M. Sours reported Tuesday morning to the Board of Supervisors about the recent changes to assessments on vehicles. Board Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers asked Sours to explain the reasons for the increased property values in response to the public’s recent questions and concerns.
“The demand on the vehicles makes the fair-market value of vehicles fluctuate so it’s just like our housing market right now, what’s going on,” Sours said. “Everybody’s going after the houses and they’re selling them quick.”
Vehicles are the same way, Sours explained. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the production of automobiles so the number of vehicles available to buy has gone down.
“Even the used market has gone down,” Sours said.
Therefore, vehicle owners can expect to see an increase in their personal property values, Sours said. How long the situation lasts remains uncertain, Sours added. But the county did not raise the tax rate on vehicles, she noted.
“It’s just the fact that vehicles are not depreciating, they’re appreciating,” Sours said. “And it’s uncommon for that to happen.”
The Commissioner of Revenue’s Office assesses vehicles by using values set by the National Automobile Dealers Association.
Supervisor Delores R. Oates said she received several calls over the weekend from people with concerns about their personal property tax bills. In one case, she said a caller told her that the assessment on the tax bill increased by $2,000.
The COVID-19 pandemic hurt microchip production, which caused a reduction in vehicle production. This, in turn, led to a shortage in vehicles and an increase in demand, Oates said, citing her research.
“I’ve been trying to explain that to the people who are calling me,” Oates said.
“It’s hard because they’re used to everything depreciating each year, and then when something like this happens — and we’re gonna see it on the housing market when they do the general reassessment,” Sours said. “It’s gonna go up.”
“There’s just more demand than supply,” Oates said.
Supervisor Tony F. Carter noted that the next board, by law, would need to equalize the tax rates with the general assessments by lowering the levy if values increase. If the assessments rise and the board leaves tax rates unchanged, supervisors would need to advertise a rate increase, Carter said.
Cullers said many taxpayers thought the county made a mistake on their bills or that tax rates increased. The board left tax rates on personal property unchanged.
The county recently extended the grace period for owners to pay their personal property tax bills without penalty, although the due date did not change. Computer problems earlier in the spring kept the Treasurer’s Office from accessing the information it needed to produce and send the tax bills. The new deadline is June 22 to pay taxes for the first half of 2021 before penalties and interest start to accrue.