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Small trailers not subject to new tax

State wrongly charged $20 tab fee on some types

State officials have incorrectly charged Spokane’s new $20 tab tax to the owners of small, utility-type trailers.

The state Department of Licensing incorrectly included single-axle trailers weighing less than 2,000 pounds when selecting vehicles that would be subject to the new tax, Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said Wednesday.

The Spokane City Council in February approved the $20 fee that began appearing on vehicle tab bills this month.

Dalton said her office caught the error and has been working with the state and the city to provide refunds to those who shouldn’t have to pay it. Owners of the trailers who were incorrectly taxed will have to pay the fee if they decide to renew their tabs online or by mail, Dalton said. They will be refunded later.

If owners who were incorrectly charged the tax pay their tab bill in person at the Spokane County Auditor’s Office or other licensing offices, the tax can be waived, Dalton said.

Department of Licensing spokesman Brad Benfield said trailer owners who paid the fee even though it should not have been charged will receive refunds in the mail.

He said it’s not clear how many trailer owners were affected. Given that the problem only affected trailers that needed to be registered in September, the number incorrectly charged is likely in the hundreds or dozens.

“Over the past week we’ve found the problem, so it won’t keep occurring in the future,” Benfield said.

Trailers that were incorrectly charged include boat trailers and small utility trailers. Camping trailers with a separate axle are required to pay the tax, Benfield said.

Dalton said “a handful” of people who live outside city limits also were incorrectly billed the tax in their recent renewal notices. That problem, she said, appears to be much smaller compared to the trailer issue and was caused because the state had incorrect information about those vehicles in its database.

Benfield said the department typically does not have data showing whether a vehicle is registered within city limits, so when a city tab tax is instituted there are kinks as the state compares data to determine which addresses are affected by the tax.

Vehicle owners incorrectly charged the tax based on where they reside should contact the city to seek a refund, Benfield said.

Spokane Accounting Director Pam Dolan said the city will designate a person for those people to contact.

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