Ken Taylor had no idea his 1980 MG convertible was worth so much – until his latest tax bill came.
The same car valued at $800 the year before was now worth $10,800, spiking Taylor’s tax bill from less than $7 to nearly $100.
“I thought it was a typo at first,” Taylor said. “That’s why I questioned it.”
Taylor’s glossy red roadster is no jalopy. It’s not going to snap your neck with its acceleration, but it will still turn a few heads as its British four-cylinder sputters by. Sitting in the car, Taylor wears a tan cap with an MG logo; beside him gloves are folded in the passenger’s seat, and the dark wooden shifter is as polished as a mirror.
It’s the third and best MG Taylor has owned, and he clearly loves it. He himself would agree it’s worth more than $800, but his gripe, he said, is how the tax office arrived at its number.
“It seems the county’s tax department is punishing people who own historic and antique vehicles,” Taylor told the Johnston County Board of Commissioners back in August. “It should be considered part of our heritage in the transportation field.”
Sheila Garner, Johnston County’s tax administrator, said the valuation had little to do with her office and more to do with the passing of time. Between last year and this year something happened to Taylor’s convertible, perhaps unbeknownst to him: It became a classic.
The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles defines a classic as any car at least 35 years old. Because vehicle taxes go through the DMV, Garner said her office just sends the county’s tax rate of 78 cents to the state.
“At the age of 35 years, the car reaches classic-vehicle status, and the state values it in a separate queue,” Garner said. “That’s what happened in the case of Mr. Taylor. Last year, when Mr. Taylor renewed his registration, there was never a separate value. Now the state says, this is a classic vehicle, take a look at it.”
Taylor doesn’t disagree and said it’s not about the money but the process. Through public records requests and conversations with state officials, Taylor said he’s found 530 cars like his in North Carolina, though only 119 are registered to drive on the road. Valuations of classic cars are based on sales, and North Carolina has had only two dealer sales in the past three and a half years, Taylor said he was told.
“You can’t come up with a valid value for a whole class of vehicles based on two data points,” Taylor told Johnston commissioners.
Commissioners Chairman Tony Braswell told Taylor he seemed to be the only one at odds with the county’s method of taxation.
“Our tax department has had numerous meetings with antique car owners; I’ve been involved with them,” Braswell said. “I can say that the vast majority of people who are the stakeholders in antique vehicles were completely satisfied after we got through.”
Taylor has since registered his car as an antique vehicle, not a classic, and state statutes value an antique at $500, or its actual value if less. Taylor’s tax bill is now around $4, but he said the matter isn’t closed until his refund check is in hand.
“They say it’s in the mail,” he said.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson