Arlington’s car decal program could soon end, though its fees would stick around

Arlington’s personal property tax car decals coon soon be a thing of the past, even as the tax associated with the tags looks set to stay.

The County Board is now considering eliminating the requirement that vehicles garaged in Arlington display a decal to demonstrate its owner has paid the necessary property tax on the car, effective July 1, 2019.

The county would instead rely entirely on workers using a license plate reading system to determine whether the owner of any given vehicle is up to date on their taxes. Vehicle owners will still need to pay the annual property tax, as well as the “motor vehicle license fee,” commonly known as the “decal fee.”

Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy’s staff will use the license plate reader technology, which the county first purchased back in 2004, “to more efficiently and effectively ensure personal property tax compliance without vehicle owners displaying a decal,” according to a county staff report prepared for the Board.

Staff also believe the change will “relieve an unnecessary burden on taxpayers,” ending a requirement that’s been in place in the county in one form or fashion since 1949. The move would also mark the end to the annual design competition for the decals, which has given high school students the chance to feature their artwork on the tag since 2005.

Arlington is one of 21 localities around the state to still require the car decals, according to the staff report, and Loudoun County recently eliminated its requirement for the tags.

A decision on the matter is still a ways off, however. The County Board will vote at its Saturday (July 14) meeting whether to call for a public hearing on the question, which would then be set for September 22.

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