It all seemed to be going so perfectly. I figured I’d need to get DJ a new car when she graduated from high school, the old 1998 Subaru just wasn’t likely to make it much longer. Besides, DJ had built enough character driving the most embarrassing car in Raleigh for two whole years.
Interestingly, it died, earlier this month, two weeks before graduation.
I wasn’t stressed because I had the inside scoop. I knew her grandfather was going to give her his car, a 2007 Mini Cooper, for graduation. It’s about the size of a bathroom stall, but it sure is fun to drive.
The plan went off without a hitch. She was thrilled!
And then, I went down to the DMV to transfer the title. As I was leaving work to snag DJ who was going to accompany me on this task, I asked a group of folks in my office if I had to have cash, not sure if this government agency would take my credit card.
My boss overheard us. “I don’t think you do.”
“How much do you think it will cost? I might take some just in case.”
I ran by the bank and snagged two twenties just in case. I like to be prepared.
When we got there, I unscrewed the license plate. I wasn’t sure if we could keep it or if we had to get another.
When I gave Lisa’s old car to the junkyard, I kept the tag – told them I lost it. In reality, I just needed it.
Amazingly, when we got inside the line was short, perhaps because we went on the Friday morning before Memorial Day weekend. When it came our turn, the clerk began punching buttons on the computer. I also noticed a card swiper in front of her station – VISA would have been OK.
Her keyboard was noisy, like the old ones you had to press down an inch or so to get a response.
Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink.
DJ and I were casually chatting while she worked.
She handed me the new tag in an opaque envelope.
“Thank you.” It was clean, straight from the prison I imagined. I was admiring the First in Flight when I heard the news…
“That’ll be $530.85 Mr. Tanner.”
DJ later told me my facial expression was priceless.
She handed me the printout in Courier font, and she began to go through the seven charges listed.
“This is for DMV technical improvements.”
A worthy tax I guessed. Besides, it was just a dollar.
“This is the Highway Use Tax.”
“What the heck is that?” It was $279.60!
“It is 3% of the value of your car.”
“What if she promises to only drive on back roads? DJ, you don’t need highways do you?”
“But it’s just a little car. It won’t take up much space! And it doesn’t weigh much, and neither does she! DJ, what do you weigh?”
My child began to look away. She could see there were five more charges for me to dispute.
“What is this ‘Mercury Bill Payable’ charge? We won’t be driving on other planets?”
“Dad, it’s only a dollar. I can pay that for you.” DJ reached in her pocket.
The clerk patiently went through the NC Certificate of Title, the plate calculation fee and the registration Transportation Authority fee.
Then I noticed the property tax.
“My father in law just paid property taxes on this car last month, he told me this week! And now you’re telling me I have to pay them again?”
“Yes. Sir, these are your taxes. This is your property now. Those were his taxes.”
“I don’t mind paying them next year, but why do we have to pay twice in one year?”
She repeated herself, “These are your property taxes. This is your property now.”
Politicians say they want to simplify taxes. I guess they think if they take it all, it is simpler than if they just take some of it.
When we got to the car, DJ reminded me that it was a gift, that we didn’t have to pay for it.
“Yea. I know. We got a deal.”
“Then why did you make such a scene?”
I didn’t really have an answer for that. When it comes to taxes, something just comes over me.