RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Around 2,700 people were incorrectly taxed by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles over the course of two years.
According to DMV Spokesperson Jessica Cowardin, Virginia drivers were overcharged between $5 and $40 as part of a state law that went into effect in July 2020.
The “Highway Use Fee,” is a state tax that is intended to tax fuel-efficient and electronic vehicles to “ensure a more fair contribution to the Commonwealth,” according to a statement on the DMV’s website.
During the implementation of this law, the DMV improperly updated its department calculating system, Cowardin said, resulting in drivers being taxed more than they should have been according to the highway use fee.
In order to calculate the highway use fee, a customer provides their vehicle identification number (VIN) in order for the DMV vendor to determine the miles per gallon (MPG) for that vehicle. If the VIN and MPG cannot be identified, the DMV vendor uses two different methods, depending on whether or not the vehicle is a truck or car, to determine the average MPG.
If the vehicle is a car, the Environmental Protection Agency average MPG for all cars is used.
If the vehicle is a truck weighing “between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds,” the EPA average for the same model and year is used.
The 2020 interpretation of the language “between 6,000 and 10,000” was to program the calculating system to record trucks with a gross weight greater than 6,000. So the calculating systems were programmed to record vehicles weighing 6,001 pounds and above.
This resulted in 2,769 owners of trucks weighing exactly 6,000 pounds being taxed the same as the EPA average for all cars.
Campbell County resident Lisa Martin Keys told 8News that when her husband renewed his registration for a 2012 Chevrolet Silverado, for three years, “the charge was $38 and some change.”
According to the DMV, people should only get charged the fee if their car runs at or above 25 miles per gallon. Robert Keys’ truck runs around 17 miles per gallon, and he was still charged.
Cowardin said this discrepancy was noticed “recently” after a viewer reported an issue to a Virginia news station. The DMV has since reviewed the language of the law and determined that vehicles weighing 6,000 pounds should be included in the calculations.
The more efficient a car is on gas, the higher highway use fee people will pay, since they are not paying as much in fuel tax. Cowardin said all that money goes to the commonwealth’s transportation fund, which includes VDOT.
Since July 1, 2020, out of 16 million vehicle registrations — both original and renewals — 3,435 have a 6,000-pound gross weight.
The DMV has notified the 2,769 owners of those vehicles and is in the process of refunding their fees. The refund amount will vary depending on the number of years for which the customers renewed their registration, but will be somewhere between $5 to $40.
Keys said her husband’s refund arrived this week.
To see your car’s registration fee and highway use fee, visit DMV.Virginia.gov.
This article was written including reporting by 8News Reporter, Sabrina Shutters.