Annual license plate fees may soon be measured in dozens rather than hundreds of dollars, allowing Oklahomans to enjoy some of the cheapest car tags in the country. Already approved by the House, HB 1734 will be heard by the Senate Monday.
The legislation would slash the cost of car tags, switching to a flat annual fee instead of the current method of calculating a percentage of a vehicle's value. The change would save Oklahomans hundreds of dollars each year, especially owners of recreational vehicles who can typically pay more than a thousand dollars to renew their license plate annually.
"Oklahomans won't have to take out a second-mortgage anymore just to afford their license plate. When all is said and done, we'll have some of the cheapest car tags in the country. Oklahoma's image as the state with the expensive car tags will be shattered forever," said Senator Stratton Taylor, Senate President Pro Tempore.
Under HB 1734, the flat tag fees would be calculated on the age of a vehicle. For example, for vehicles five years old or less, annual tags would cost $85. For vehicles between six and ten years of age, a tag would cost $45. Any vehicle older than ten years would qualify for a $15 tag.
Some examples include:Current tag HB 1734 tag
New car (year 1)$321 $85
Sale price: $25,000 (year 6)$196 $45
New RV (year 1)$1,015 $85
Sale price: $80,000 (year 6)$789 $45
Used car, Four years old (year 1 for new owner)$154 $85
Sale price: $9,000 (year 2)$140 $45
"We're talking about a huge chunk of savings for Oklahoma motorists. They'll see their tag fees plummet overnight," said Taylor.
In order to cut car tags without taking money from such services as education and road construction, HB 1734 raises vehicle excise taxes slightly to keep the legislation revenue neutral. The excise tax would be shifted from 3.25 percent to 4.5 percent, but it would be applied to the actual sales price, minus any trade-in value, rather than the current system of basing the tax on the sticker price.
Even with the slight increase, Oklahomans will still pay some of the lowest excise and tag fees in the region.
New $20,600 Vehicle
Total Tax & Fees, First Year
"Even with the adjustment, we still end up with some of the lowest tag and excise fees in the region," noted Taylor.
In addition to giving Oklahomans a break on tag fees, the legislation would also discourage motorists from illegally registering their cars and trucks as commercial vehicles or registering in other states just to get a cheaper tag.
"By cutting the cost of car tags drastically, there won't be any incentive to evade our laws," said Taylor.
Despite the obvious benefits of the legislation, Governor Keating and legislative Republicans have expressed opposition. They are pushing a slightly different bill, one that has their names at the top of it.
"This is all about ego and pride of ownership. The Republicans want to be the ones who can say 'we cut car tags' and they don't want to share the spotlight with any other legislators. I'd hate to see us squander a golden opportunity to save Oklahoma motorists money just because some politicians are worried about who will get credit for it," said Taylor.
"I would urge both Republican legislators and Governor Keating to put their partisan concerns aside and do the right thing for the people of Oklahoma. There will be plenty of credit to go around. I would think they'd rather be remembered as the people who helped cut car tags rather than the ones who blocked it."