The Board of County Supervisors tasked the Prince William County Police Department with providing an update on what law enforcement efforts could be taken to deal with vehicles garaged in Prince William, but that have Maryland license plates. They presented the following information:
Failing to register a vehicle in Prince William is a form of tax evasion, which can be reported to the County Tax Evader System/Hotline. (Click to see reporting methods, or call 703-792-6787 to make a report.) This hotline has resulted in 225 reported(via phone/web/email) instances of non-compliance during calendar years 2017 and 2018, resulting in only 26 (12%) vehicles added to the tax rolls and 16 (7%) vehicles identified as already assessed. The balance of the reported vehicles were either not found, assessed by another locality, still under investigation or the tax liability could not be substantiated.
County Code Section 13-34, amended in 2018 to include parked vehicles, requires vehicles to be registered and license plates displayed for vehicles to be operated or parked on highways by a person, who controls the vehicle, as required by State law (46.2-613). No further changes are recommended.
In terms of enforcement, Police Officers are encouraged to verify residency when they come across vehicles with out of state registration during police encounters. It is important for the community to keep in mind that during these encounters, officers must verify that the vehicle with out of state registration is not owned by an active duty military service member, the owner has resided in the state more than 30 days, and the owner of the vehicle has it legally registered in another state.
State Code §46.2-600 requires every person residing in the Commonwealth who owns a motor vehicle to register the vehicle before it is operated or parked on any highway within 30 days of purchase. The code exempts active duty military service members who have their vehicle registered in another state. [Note: there is no requirement for active duty military to register their vehicle in a jurisdiction within six months of relocation to the jurisdiction.]
Taxpayer Services Compliance section current staffing levels include only four (4) Tax Compliance Inspectors whose primary function is the inspection, identification, appraisal and auditing of businesses for licenses, personal and tangible property for assessment purposes. Following up on the Tax Evader System/Hotline is a collateral duty. Staff believes this function would be more effective with a dedicated team working early mornings, late evenings and/or weekends.
Redeploying current staff resources toward this function would most likely result in lost revenue of one to several million dollars currently generated each year. The addition of new dedicated staff specifically focusing on out-of-state tagged vehicles may or may not pay for itself annually, but it could certainly result in increased compliance.