May 16, 2023 - News

Why some Richmonders saw a huge spike in their car tax bill this year

Illustration of Benjamin Franklin sitting in a car with dark tinted windows.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's Richmond personal property tax season, and thousands of locals got hit with car tax bills significantly higher than last year.

What's happening: Around 13,300 vehicles were incorrectly assessed last year resulting in lower-than-they-should-be car values, per an announcement posted to the city's finance department website.

  • The city corrected the error this year, and owners of those 13,300 cars saw an increase in assessed value.

What they're saying: "They just signed a billion-dollar tax deal for the Diamond District. … Meanwhile the little guy's dying here trying to buy food and gas," Axios Richmond reader David Breslin vented to us via email.

  • He got hit with a car tax bill nearly double what he owed last year for his 10-year-old F-150.
  • Another reader shared his bill showing a 55% increase in assessed value, jumping from $505 owed in 2022 to $1,072 due by June 5.

Both readers say they didn't get any notice or explanation for the change beyond a bill in the mail last week.

The city did not respond to a request for comment or answer questions about how much average values increased.

  • It does not appear the residents had to pay the difference from any incorrect assessments last year.

How it works: The city uses the J.D. Power Pricing Guide's clean trade-in value, also called the NADA Guide, to determine a car's value. The city's vehicle tax rate is $3.70 per $100 of the assessed value, and payments are due by June 5 of each year.

The big picture: It’s the latest billing and revenue snafu from the city, which in recents months was found to be losing millions in meals tax revenue while sending out incorrect late bills to businesses.

Worth noting: The pandemic sent used car prices soaring, affecting overall vehicle values, and after a brief winter respite, those prices are ticking up again.

Be smart: The city collected $64.5 million in personal property taxes in the last fiscal year, making it the second most lucrative tax for city coffers, behind only real estate taxes.

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