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Dear Mahatma: I like the idea of car dealers collecting sales tax, license fees, and handing out tags. Any idea as to how many states permit such practices? -- Old Sam

Dear Sam: We're not sure how many states allow dealers to process licenses for their customers, but we are somewhat familiar with Maryland, given the experience of an informed reader. We also looked it up on the website of the Maryland Vehicle Administration.

The MVA says Maryland dealers "will usually handle the titling and registration of your vehicle for you. The dealer will provide you with a bill of sale and temporary (cardboard) or permanent (metal) license plates before you drive the vehicle off the lot. The Maryland Certificate of Title will be printed and mailed to you later."

Title application documents must be supplied, "along with payment for taxes and fees." Of course, no sane dealer would pay these taxes and fees. The customer will, one way or the other, and upfront.

Maryland's "excise tax" is either 6% of the vehicle's book value or 6% of the purchase price on the bill of sale for vehicles 7 years old or newer.

Taking off shoes ... $30,000 sales price generates sales tax of $1,800. Roll that baby into an 84-month loan.

Dear Mahatma: These people with expired drive-out tags. Might they also not have insurance on these cars? -- Kelly

Dear Kelly: Seems reasonable to assume that people who won't pay to have a vehicle licensed wouldn't pay to have it insured.

The Department of Finance and Administration estimated, earlier this year, the total number of uninsured vehicles to be 400,000. Out of 2.9 million actively registered vehicles.

Taking off shoes ... that's right at 14%.

The hope, spokesman Scott Hardin said, is that the agency's new system implemented earlier this year will drastically reduce this number.

Hardin said the system does two things.

First, any time a vehicle falls off insurance the owner will be alerted by letter from DF&A. The letter will provide a time frame in which insurance must be obtained -- 30 days -- or risk suspension of the registration.

Second, he said, the system allows law enforcement to determine if a vehicle is insured and be confident in that information. The previous system might have data that was up to 30 days old while the new version is updated in real time.

The system also has an outstanding name: Real-Time Online Insurance Verification. Here's hoping it works, because nothing makes the readers of this column froth at the mouth like seeing a drive-out tag that's months overdue.

We recall the reader who would send us, every three months or so, a photo of the same vehicle whose temporary tags were older than dirt in dog years.

Vanity plate seen in Cabot: SEDATED. Seriously? We asked our correspondent to confirm, and she did. About this plate, we dunno.

Metro on 04/04/2020


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