Refunds will remedy incorrect license renewal payments for vehicles outside RTA boundary

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Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Licensing are working to issue refunds for Sound Transit motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) payments by some owners who live just outside the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) District.

Refunds will be sent to affected vehicle owners, who live within zip codes that include addresses both inside and outside the district. The refunds will go back to July 1, 2005 and total between $3 million and $3.5 million. Affected vehicle owners will not have to apply for refunds; they will be sent automatically.

Staff in Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag’s office identified the unacceptable level of incorrect vehicle license renewal billings. The approximately 40,000 vehicle renewals that were wrongly paid in the one-year renewal cycle between summer 2007 and summer 2008 represent an error rate of approximately 1.5 percent, with the total number of vehicles registered inside the Sound Transit District boundaries totaling approximately 2.5 million.

“The state auditor and his staff deserve credit for identifying a rate of error going far beyond what Sound Transit and DOL earlier assumed or can accept,” said Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl. “The Department of Licensing and Sound Transit are working closely to fix this problem. We are sending letters informing the affected parties of the refunds and apologizing.”

The Department of Licensing (DOL) collects Sound Transit’s 0.3 percent MVET supporting regional mass transit services around the Central Puget Sound. DOL is working to modify its process for issuing renewal notices to ensure a high level of accuracy.

“Our agencies are close to finalizing the details of the refund process and solving the billing issues, including taking steps to ensure nobody is charged the tax when we’re not certain they’re in the RTA district,” DOL Director Liz Luce said.

The fixes to the renewal process will be implemented as quickly as possible and the refunds will be mailed within one to two months.  Refunds will be made for all MVET transactions with taxpayers residing outside the RTA boundary pursuant to applicable state law.  Between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2008, approximately 95,000 transactions totaling between $3 million and $3.5 million will be refunded. All transactions after June 30, 2008 will also be reviewed, and where the MVET was paid in error, those payments will also be refunded. 

People with questions can call 1-877-755-4550, e-mail main@soundtransit.org or visit www.soundtransit.org, where information about the Sound Transit District is located under the “About Us” menu at top right. 

Sound Transit’s MVET revenues provide approximately $73 million annually toward building and operating transit projects and services around the Central Puget Sound region. The 0.3 percent tax is equivalent to $30 for each $10,000 in vehicle value. Formed by voters in 1996, the district includes the most urban areas of Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties.

Sound Transit has sufficient financial reserves to absorb the refunds without compromising the agency’s ability to deliver its voter-approved projects and services.