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You asked: What is the car tag credit?

Q: What is the car tag credit on my renewal notice?

A: The Mississippi Legislature applies a financial credit to license plates/tags on any vehicle that is 10 years old or less, in order to keep the cost of vehicle tags lower. This credit is known as “legislative credit” or “leg credit.”

The percentage of the credit varies slightly depending on the vehicle, but typically accounts for approximately 50 percent of the actual price of the tag. Therefore, without the credit, tags fees would be nearly double what they currently cost.

Lincoln County Tax Assessor/Collector Blake Pickering said he wants to keep the public informed about this, so car owners are better able to protect their own interests.

Vehicle owners can see what their “leg” credit is on their motor vehicle license renewal notice card when it is received by mail. The top line of the card has a box titled “Tag Credit” and the legislative credit for that particular vehicle printed below it.

When a tag expires, a 5 percent penalty is applied for each month the tag is late, capping at 25 percent five months past the expiration date. At that point, the legislative credit is lost.

This means a tag that is allowed to go without being renewed for more than five months will then cost the full price — the “normal” price plus the amount that the legislative credit would have covered — plus a 25 percent late fee, resulting in paying roughly 225 percent of what the tag would have cost had it been renewed on time.

Pickering gave the example of a 2014 Ford Mustang. A tag renewal fee notice is sent for $132 due in April. The car’s owner waits until October to renew the tag. They must now pay the original $132 tax, a 25 percent late fee of $33, and the forfeited legislative credit of $115. That’s a new a total of $280.

“Now, you may be thinking, ‘I would just wait until the next year to buy a tag and hope I don’t get a ticket in the meantime.’ Please know this is not an option,” said Pickering.

The state will still require the vehicle owner to purchase both tags. In addition, if the driver is pulled over in a traffic stop by law enforcement and given a ticket for an expired tag, the person is now also responsible for paying a fine of approximately $200 in addition to the fees due at the tax assessor’s office. The Mustang’s owner would then be paying almost $500 instead of $132.

Owners should also be aware that renewal dates do not change. A vehicle tag that expires in January will still expire the following January, even if the tag is not renewed until March. If the legislative credit is allowed to lapse and the fees are not paid until November, the next renewal date will still be in January.

“Hopefully, this explains what a leg credit is and gives some insight into how the tag renewal process works,” Pickering said. “I always hate having to tell people they have lost their legislative credit.”

Lincoln County has about 35,000 licensed vehicles, and “once every three weeks or so we’ll have someone with this problem,” Pickering said.

Anyone looking at buying a car who wants to know ahead of time what their tag will cost can call the tax assessor’s office at 601-835-3427 to inquire. The VIN number must be provided.