Kentucky works to right wrong against truck owners

By Keith Goble
state legislative editor

Once the calendar turned over to July 1 this summer, big rigs purchased by Kentucky truck owners became liable for an extra fee. The result was quite a jolt to many truck owners' pocketbooks.

The state's new budget law, effective July 1, included a revision to the collection of Kentucky's motor vehicle usage tax by the state's Department of Revenue.     

The revision was intended to target people who fail to register their personal vehicles in the state, but many owner-operators and other truckers were caught in the middle of it.

The motor vehicle usage tax is a tariff on the privilege of traveling Kentucky highways, due at the time of initial registration when the vehicle is purchased.

The usage tax is 6 percent, the same amount collected on the state's sales tax, and is to be paid on every motor vehicle used in the state.

However, vehicles in excess of 44,000 pounds gross weight are exempt from the one-time tax.

Before the new budget rule went into effect, a vehicle owner was only required to title the vehicle in the state, with no taxes due.

In an effort to encourage more titleholders statewide to register their vehicles, the new law, previously HB267, required the sales tax to become due any time a vehicle was titled without also registering it.

Now, if an owner titles a vehicle and pays the 6 percent sales tax, and at a later date registers the vehicle, they will get credit for sales tax paid against the motor vehicle usage tax.

For truckers base plating in Kentucky, the new rule had no effect. They simply continued to title and register their trucks, with no sales tax or motor vehicle usage tax being due because of the exemption allowed.

But for truckers with base plates outside the state, they were forced to pay the sales tax at time of title. Because they too are exempt from the usage tax, they had no opportunity to earn a credit on their payment.

Ainsley Snyder, a section supervisor with the Kentucky Department of Revenue, said once the new rule was implemented the question quickly came up concerning large trucks titled in the state but registered elsewhere.

"Because Kentucky exempts trucks with a gross weight of at least 44,001 pounds from paying the motor vehicle usage tax, they don't have the option of getting the credit for making the truck legal to run on the road," Snyder said.

Shortly after the rule took effect, the Revenue Department was inundated with calls from the trucking industry about how this new tax collection adversely affected truck owners.

Snyder said truckers understood the advantage of registering the vehicle in the state but because many were leased to an out-of-state company it wasn't practical for them to register the truck in Kentucky.

"At that point we had to re-evaluate how we were administering it, because all of a sudden one year we exempted all these large trucks and now all of a sudden they owe a sales tax if they are doing a title only," Snyder told Land Line.

As a result, the agency dropped the requirement that owners of large trucks who only title their vehicle in the state pay a sales tax.

"We have sent out a memo to all our county clerks about how they are to exempt large trucks, and how to go about doing that in the statewide title and registration system we have set up here," Snyder said.

Snyder said the problem with the new law for truck owners was simply something that wasn't envisioned.

"In July, it was really a test to see how smoothly this would run. . We've had to review our procedures and tweak things a little bit. You never know what's going to happen when you implement something this large. Things have to be re-evaluated, and rightly so," she said.

Snyder was apologetic about the confusion the rule created for truckers.

"We're taking the position of when we implemented this we were administering it incorrectly. It was never our intention to start taxing all these large trucks," she said.