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What became of Wilmington city tags for cars?

Ken Little

At one time, the city issued tags that said “Wilmington”  that had to be displayed on the front of vehicles, but it stopped issuing tags years ago.

It does continue to charge a $5 fee for each vehicle, but no longer issues tags.

N.C. General Statutes Sections 106-213 and 20-97 authorize the city “to impose an annual license tax on motor vehicles” of not more than $5 per year “upon any vehicle resident in the city,” according to research by AssistantCity Attorney R. Lynn Coleman.

Section 20-97(b) goes on to add that “proceeds of the tax may be used for any lawful purpose.”

“That’s the authority under which the $5 is charged per vehicle that is listed as being “resident” in the city based on city tax records which are maintained by New Hanover County on the city’s behalf and collected by the county for the city, for a fee,” Coleman says.

Coleman says that because of the location of the authorizing statute, “it seems clear that the original intent of the measure was to allow cities to collect a tax per vehicle for the burden that each vehicle is estimated to add to city streets and other infrastructure that must be maintained by the city and not by the N.C. Department of Transportation.

“The legislature, however, saw fit to allow the funds to be used for any purpose and not just limited to use for street and infrastructure maintenance,” Coleman adds.

Coleman offers additional “pure conjecture”:

In past times, “it seemed a nice touch to be able to provide a front license plate to help monitor who had and had not paid their vehicle license tax,” she says.

“As times changed and procedures relating to manufacture of plates changed, it became cost prohibitive to issue a plate to verify payment of the tax and we now just use the paper records, as we do for payment of real property taxes and business inventory taxes,” Coleman says.

User-contributed question by:
Fred Gainey

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2 Responses to “ What became of Wilmington city tags for cars?”

  1. On April 30, 2010 at 7:27 am mike k wrote:

    just another way to rob the public! Just like the “inspection fees” that we pay each year.

  2. On April 30, 2010 at 8:54 am Curious George wrote:

    Where can one purchase a Wilmington tag?

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