Home Incorrect DMV records lead Augusta County to send tax bills to Staunton residents for vehicles
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Incorrect DMV records lead Augusta County to send tax bills to Staunton residents for vehicles

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Between 100 and 200 Staunton residents were mistakenly sent personal property tax bills for vehicles by Augusta County in fall 2023 as a result of incorrect Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles records.

Just after Christmas, the same residents received notices from the county about the error and refund checks for 2023 taxes paid to the county which should have been paid to the city of Staunton. They also received notices from the city that 2023 personal property taxes were due February 28, 2024 to Staunton.

“It was not a county problem or a city problem,” said Staunton Commissioner of the Revenue Maggie Ragon.

However, Ragon said she does not want to put blame on the DMV either that garage jurisdiction records may be recorded incorrectly when residents purchase vehicles at auto dealerships. Also, some addresses are Staunton according to United States Postal Service, but geographically are in the county.

“It’s really just a happenstance.”

The city downloads DMV records every month, and Ragon said she is unsure of the exact cause of the problem.

“It’s really common. It’s extremely common. We shift records back and forth with the county,” she said. In fact, a similar situation happened with 2022 personal property taxes but did not affect as many city residents.

Also an issue is the fact that many residents move back and forth between the city and county without updating their addresses with the DMV.

Virginia is the only state in the nation with cities and counties.

Ragon said that when the error happens it is also not on a salesman at car dealership, but the city’s job to solve and fix. With 28,000 vehicles registered in the city, pinpointing the issue is a challenge.

When the situation happened once before, Ragon, who has been with the city for 18 years, said staff was able to isolate a dealership or a particular auto salesman making the error of a vehicle garaged in the city or county and reached out to that dealership or salesman to further prevent errors.

“I can’t say that was the issue this time. We fix it and we move on,” Ragon said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.

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