The loophole in motorcar tax law can plague Rhode Islanders for many years

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The loophole in motor vehicle tax law can plague Rhode Islanders for decades

WOONSOCKET, RI (WPRI) – Former Woonsocket Resident Shane Sartini entered an AAA in Rhode Island in February 2018 to renew his license plate. Instead, he was told that he would have to pay $ 916 in back taxes if he wanted to renew his license plate from 14 years earlier.

Sartini said he was blind and never received any notification of the taxes or the block when he registered.

An investigation by Target 12 found that Rhode Island law required him to pay the amount even if he was never notified.

While a law passed in 2019 provided a 10-year statute of limitations on government collections for personal income, sales, estate, and corporate taxes, it did not provide such protection for vehicle taxes.

As a result, the RI Automobile Division can dispense vehicle registration tax returns for decades-old debt, according to Peter Wasylyk, assistant city attorney for Woonsocket.

Sartini said he always pays his taxes on time, but only keeps tax records that are 10 years old.

“I didn’t have any of these documents,” said Sartini. “I wasn’t even at that bank anymore, so there was no way I could prove my case.”

He took the city to a Small Claims Court, but was told it was a Supreme Court matter. Until then, his time was running out.

“I had no choice but to renew my registration, so I paid in protest,” said Sartini.

A spokesman for the Rhode Island DMV said in an email that a new computer system in July 2017 made it easier to link municipal tax records to the DMV database.

“I know I’m not the only one,” Sartini told Target 12. “There are several people out there, I’m sure they did.”

Objective 12 received fiscal 2018 DMV records on tax blocks which resulted in 7,806 tax blocks for Woonsocket residents as of November 2017. Sartini was one of them and didn’t find out about the block until four months later.

The story continues under the graphic.

In total, the DMV issued almost 121,000 tax blocks nationwide in the 2018 financial year.

Senator Frank Lombardi, who co-drafted and helped shape the 2019 law, which provided for a 10-year limitation period for various types of tax collection, described the tax blockade as “reprehensible” and “unacceptable” for Sartini.

“Ten, 12, 14 years later … that’s unacceptable,” Lombardi said. “It shouldn’t be and it should go away. It’s a shame for the state that it did that. ”

Lombardi said his 2019 bill did not include a statute of limitations on vehicle taxes as there was no demand at the time, but added that he now plans to consider whether the law should be changed.

Tolly Taylor (ttaylor@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook