DMV Computer Error Means 50,000 Will Receive Incorrect Car Tax Bills

DMV Computer Error Means 50,000 Will Receive Incorrect Car Tax Bills

Hartford Courant, June 8, 2016

By Jon Lender

HARTFORD -- The Department of Motor Vehicles admitted Wednesday that about 50,000 incorrect car tax bills will be mailed to Connecticut drivers as a result of its continuing computer nightmare, which has sent faulty information to municipal assessors as to which vehicles are garaged in their towns.

People should carefully examine their bills when they get them in the mail, and report any discrepancies to local tax officials who can rectify the problem. "We are advising residents early so that they look immediately at their tax bills and make any necessary changes before paying them. All of us are being pro-consumer in this effort and wanting to prevent inconveniences for taxpayers," DMV Commissioner Michael Bzdyra said at a press conference at DMV headquarters in Wethersfield. He was joined in his announcement by the Connecticut Association of Assessing Officers and the Connecticut Tax Collectors' Association.

Local tax officials had complained of problems in recent months because of major computer problems that erupted after the DMV switched over to an upgraded, supposedly-improved computer system for vehicle registrations. Wednesday's announcement served notice that the potential problems that those officials were complaining about are about to become a reality for the taxpaying public.

Officials said if a person receives a tax bill from a municipality in which they did not live or keep a vehicle – both as of Oct. 1, 2015 – he or she must contact the local assessor to request a transfer to the correct town or city of residency. Local tax officials said they have been working for months to reduce the number of incorrect vehicle addresses from an original estimate of 250,000, but they still expect 50,000 incorrect bills as the result of the computer problems. That's above the normal 30,000 incorrect tax bills that go out in any given year for routine reasons such as people moving to a new town but not reporting it to DMV promptly. All told, there are 3.1 million vehicles statewide on which local property tax is paid.

"While we have made a great deal of progress in addressing these issues, and have significantly reduced them, there will be some cases where people receive tax bills from the wrong town," John Rainaldi, president of the assessors' group, and Launa M. Goslee, president of the tax collectors' association, said in a joint statement. They added: "It is important that if anyone receives a tax bill from the wrong town, they contact the town that issued the bill as soon as possible so that the bill can be forwarded to the correct town.

If anyone receives a tax bill from the wrong town, it is important that they do not ignore the incorrect tax bill. "There are also several services customers can obtain online at DMV now. These include verifying whether they have a delinquent motor vehicle property tax, emissions and insurance compliance issues as well as renewing vehicle registrations, reprinting registrations and canceling registrations. Go to ct.gov/dmv/online today to see what is offered," DMV said.

Tax bill from the wrong town back to top

Receiving a car-tax bill from the wrong town could result in someone paying taxes too high or too low, depending if their real hometown has a higher than the one that sent them the bill. That's still another reason to resolve any discrepancies with local tax officials, Rainaldi said.

Also, vehicle owners also should watch to make sure they receive a tax bill at all. If they don't get one by mid-July, they should contact their local town hall to see what's wrong, Rainaldi said.

The foul-up with the tax bills is the latest result of the problem-plagued $26-million performed for the state by contractor 3M Company.

The DMV has been mired in computer problems since the new system went live late last summer and near-chaos descended on the DMV – as customer wait times tripled over the previous year and customers waited as long as eight hours for service at DMV.

The problems persisted so long that in January, the DMV commissioner in charge of the change, Andres Ayala Jr., resigned after apologizing to motorists whose registrations were revoked erroneously.

Since then, the DMV has exercised an escape clause to sever ties with 3M and drop it from the next big phase of the continuing upgrade -- integrating driver-licensing operations into the new system, in addition to vehicle registrations. However, contractual obligations, including a warranty, require that 3M remain on the job for an unspecified time to finish the registration system.

Bzdyra said Wednesday that average wait times at DMV branches have improved for registration transactions – down to an average of 59 minutes. That's the estimate from the time a person receives a numbered ticket – and Bzdyra said it generally takes a half-hour before a customer gets to the desk where he or she receives the ticket. So, overall, the average wait is about an hour and a half, he said.

However, DMV branches had another major computer outage this past Saturday, which Bzdyra said drove up wait times to about three hours. The commissioner said he'd entered a short-term contract with Microsoft for about $26,000 to have an outside expert try to diagnose what's wrong with the new computer system.

Microsoft was on the job Saturday for the latest computer outage, which may help to find solutions, he said. Microsoft was hired from an approved state vendors list, and competitive bidding wasn't required for the contract in that amount, he said. DMV said the latest problem affecting the tax bills occurred because data in the old computer system was compiled over a period of decades from customers and could include old addresses never changed by someone who moved. Or, they said, it could include incorrect information given when registering a vehicle.

"The new computer system attempts to standardize information so that there is consistency in DMV records as well as those given to towns for tax billing purposes," DMV said in a statement. The statement went on: "DMV and the municipalities across the state are also working to resolve inconsistencies among some residents' having both mailing addresses as well as separate 'domicile' listings for a different municipality where their vehicle is garaged (e.g., someone lives in one town, but keeps a vehicle in another town where it is most often used)."

Customers who need information to make a registration address change can go online to ct.gov/dmv/changeaddress or call DMV at 860-263-5700.