Students may evade car tax

As New Haven begins a crackdown on local residents who evade paying property taxes on their cars, some city officials say another group is not paying its fair share: Yale students.

Out-of-state students who keep a car in New Haven for more than 90 days at a time are required by Connecticut law to pay local property taxes on their vehicles. But New Haven Tax Collector C.J. Cuticello said he believes most Yale students do not pay the tax, which is typically a few hundred dollars a year.

“We don’t see people who are living on campus coming in and saying ‘I want to pay the tax,'” Cuticello said. “I think the only ones who follow it are the ones who are living off-campus or in a residential area.”

Students who park legally on the street in most residential areas near the Yale campus are required to pay the tax when they register for a mandatory parking permit from the city. But drivers who park in garages owned by Yale or other private operators — as well as those who park illegally — often slip under the city’s radar, Cuticello said.

Yale officials said they notify students about the tax each fall, but there is little else the University can do to prevent them from evading the payments. In late August, the Registrar’s Office sent an e-mail to all Yale College students stating that “all colleges have been asked to remind interested persons of the need to pay” the tax.

Yale Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand said since the University does not ask students to inform Yale whether they have a car on campus, it has no means of determining whether the tax is being paid. In Yale-owned garages, students are not required to demonstrate that they pay the tax even if they purchase a space for the full academic year, said Ed Bebyn, the manager of Yale’s parking facilities.

“We’re not the collector of the tax, so we don’t require it,” Bebyn said. “The University has never asked me to suddenly become a reporting agent and say that we have this many students with out-of-state plates.”

A Silliman senior — who spoke on condition that his name would not be used — said although he does not pay taxes on his car, which he parks in a private garage, he is not concerned about getting caught.

“I get that e-mail every year, but I never do anything about it,” the senior said. “I don’t know a single person who has paid the tax and registered their car.”

New Haven ramped up its efforts to collect the payments last week with the unveiling of the BootFinder — a device that can scan a vehicle and determine almost instantaneously whether taxes have been paid on it.

Although the BootFinder will primarily be used to find delinquent taxpayers with vehicles registered in Connecticut, New Haven has rehired a firm to track vehicles with out-of-state plates and determine if their owners owe taxes, city officials said.

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said he did not believe that Yale students are “disproportionately” evading the property tax on cars. But with New Haven residents facing their third property tax rate increase in three years, DeStefano said the city was making an additional effort to enforce tax laws on all residents.

“It’s that taxes are higher for everybody else, and when a small group of people don’t pay their taxes, it’s just a matter of fairness,” DeStefano said.

Those found to be evading the tax are first given 30 days to pay back taxes, Cuticello said. Further failure to pay the tax could result in additional costs or even the seizure of the delinquent person’s car, he said.

A parking attendant on York Street tells a man to move his car. Out-of-state residents who keep cars on campus are supposed to pay a car tax, but the University does not enforce this requirement.
Emmanuelle Massicot
A parking attendant on York Street tells a man to move his car. Out-of-state residents who keep cars on campus are supposed to pay a car tax, but the University does not enforce this requirement.

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