MVC levies new tax for not driving your car

The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission has a new policy of backbilling registration when a broken, hobby or restoration vehicle has been off the road. You cannot re-register the vehicle without paying for registration while the vehicle was off the road.

Car owners can avoid this fee in the future by returning the license plates and providing proof that insurance was cancelled (not sure how you do this or what is considered acceptable proof).

The argument can be made that an owner could have avoided paying his fair share by driving an unregistered vehicle. While this is very possible, the current MVC regulation penalizes the innocent as well as the guilty.

There are already many methods of catching and punishing the guilty, including the new high-speed license plate cameras on many police vehicles that scan parking lots and highways. Registration status is checked via computer and summonses are sent in bulk by mail.

The MVC now requires you to prove your innocence to avoid racking up fees. While our system is based on “innocent until proven guilty,” that does not always apply to fees or taxes. In this specific case, one must prove innocence retroactively. If you did not return the license plates because you planned to re-register the vehicle in the future, there is not much you can do but pay the fee for something you did not use.

I would also recommend that vehicle (and boat) owners save all their old registration cards to prove that payment was made each year, lest a computer error or data breech leave you paying double without recourse.

What I find most troubling is the method in which this was implemented. First, the presumption of guilt; prove that you did not drive the car because we cannot prove that you did. Second is that the rules changed retroactively. Owners are then forced to try and retroactively produce some proof of innocence that could have been easy to obtain at the time.

I hope my letter will alert those who may have recently taken a vehicle (or boat) off the road. Return the license plates and save proof that the insurance company has removed the car from your policy, or pay the consequences later.

Robert Obusek
Millstone Township