Tax Commission says new Mississippi tags coming

Published 4:07 am Sunday, May 4, 2008

About 20 Mississippi counties are either out of car tags or are running short because officials forgot to reorder, according to the State Tax Commission.

That doesn’t necessarily mean motorists without the latest tag will be in trouble with the law.

Every five years, the Tax Commission is required by law to change the image on vehicle tags. Last October, the image of the Biloxi lighthouse replaced that of the traditional Magnolia.

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The change meant that drivers who would ordinarily only receive new decals for their tag had to purchase a completely new tag, which created the increase in demand.

Kathy Waterbury, spokeswoman for the Tax Commission, said the state’s tag supply is manufactured by Waldale Manufacturing of Nova Scotia, Canada. The company requires six weeks to manufacture and ship the tags to counties throughout the state.

“Counties are responsible for maintaining its tag inventory,” Waterbury said. “But, because we had an image change, the Tax Commission was responsible for ordering the initial inventory.”

Waterbury said that after that initial inventory purchase, counties were supposed to be responsible for ordering additional plates.

“Some counties didn’t remember to do that,” Waterbury said. “We have a lot of new tax collectors this year who may not have known to reorder. And there were several who told us they just forgot.”

Waterbury said counties should get more tags next week.

One place where motorists are walking away empty handed is Washington County.

Interim Tax Collector Mickey Fratesi, who was appointed in January following the suspension of tax collector Patricia Lee, said the shortage came as a surprise to him.

“It really caught me off guard,” Fratesi said. “And I don’t want this to ever happen again. We are backed up right now. It’s not that we don’t want to sell them (plates), we just don’t have any to sell.”

Once the current demand is met, Fratesi said he intends to order additional plates that will serve as a surplus supply for the county.

In the meantime, Mississippi motorists who are due to purchase tags should still stop by the tax collector’s office where they can pick up proper documentation showing that they are in compliance with the law.