Barrington officials looking into out-of-state vehicle registrations

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It’s the same thing as stealing money from the town.

That’s how Barrington Tax Assessor Michael Minardi feels about vehicles owned by Barrington residents that are registered in other states. It’s not a new problem, Mr. Minardi said recently, but it isn’t one that seems to be going away, either.

Last week, Mr. Minardi said there were 33 vehicles on an “out-of-state” car list. Some of them have Vermont or New Hampshire license plates yet they spend night after night parked in Barrington driveways and garages. Some of them have been spotted by Mr. Minardi himself while others have been reportedly anonymously.

“Here’s what happens. You come home from a hard day of work and the guy next door has a $75,000 car parked in the driveway. You’ve got a $20,000 car and you are paying taxes,” Mr. Minardi said.

“Don’t you think that would tick you off? There’s more than a few people that are ticked off.”

State law mandates that all vehicles owned by Rhode Island residents must be registered in-state within 30 days of residence though Mr. Minardi said some owners choose to register in another state as a means of avoiding or limiting their tax bill.

“The truth is, we have people with condos in New Hampshire, Vermont, second homes on Cape Cod, who register their cars there and drive it here because taxes are either non-existent in new Hampshire or Vermont or lower in Massachusetts,” Mr. Minardi said.

Each time a vehicle is housed in Barrington but registered somewhere else the town loses tax revenue. Barrington’s motor vehicle tax rate is $42 per every $1,000 of assessed value according to the National Auto Dealers Association. The first $500 of value is exempt.

Mr. Minardi said the practice of living here but registering elsewhere isn’t more prevalent in one part of town than another. One area where out-of-state vehicles are spotted easily, however, is the high school where the same car or truck may be found sitting in the parking lot day after day.

Mr. Minardi also said enforcement of the law ultimately falls to local police. Police Chief John LaCross said there haven’t been any summons issued to date but a violation can carry up to an $85 fine.

Mr. Minardi said a letter will soon be sent to those suspected of violating the law. It advises each respondent they have 10 business days to register the vehicle before a report is made with the police and the DMV Enforcement Division.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.