SPECIAL REPORT: States begin withholding IRP fees to Oklahoma

| 2/20/2003

Several states have started withholding reciprocal tag fees from Oklahoma as a battle continues between the Sooners and their sister states.

The fight started back in April, when Illinois and several other states shouted "foul!" in regard to Oklahoma's base plating rules. The other states claimed Oklahoma cheated them out of much-needed reciprocal tag fees by looking the other way when agents hired by truckers filed false mileage projections to get their clients cheaper tags.

Illinois took its complaint to the International Registration Plan Inc. After a hearing, the IRP agreed. As a result, the IRP's Dispute Resolution Committee, or DRC, ended up ordering Oklahoma to develop a new estimated distance chart using actual miles and come up with a plan outlining how the state will deal with owner-operators using service agents in Oklahoma.

Compliance dates have now come and gone, and the IRP's governing officials have ordered member jurisdictions to withhold reciprocity fees.

Oklahoma Tax Commission spokeswoman Paula Ross says Oklahoma is trying hard to cooperate.

"In December, the chart was done, and on Feb. 18, the DRC reviewed it and found it in compliance," she said. Ross said the owner-operator rules were also complete and in final assessment in the office of Gov. Brad Henry.

"We feel we've done what we were told to do," she said. With the approval of the mileage chart, Ross said the tax commission was "halfway" to compliance.

Ross said several states did withhold December fees due in January, and she felt that if the dispute were not settled, more states would withhold the January fees due in February. Published reports say losing the truck tag fees or facing a potentially large judgment would be devastating to the state. The fees fund state government and schools.

To block sanctions that would stop the flow of reciprocal truck licensing fees to the Sooner state, the Oklahoma Tax Commission filed suit against the IRP in late December. A question of jurisdiction is still in the hands of a federal judge. Meanwhile, states are beginning to withhold money. And published reports say that's more than a million a month.

Former U.S. Attorney Patrick M. Ryan - well known for his role as federal prosecutor in the Timothy McVeigh trial - will lead the charge on behalf of the commission.

--by Sandi Soendker, managing editor