by April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
Only a third of the $6 million in unconstitutional technology fees collected by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has made it back into the wallets of residents and businesses, according to a recent report by the state agency.
Nevadans have until June 30 to claim their refunds, after which the remaining money will be placed in the State Highway Fund.
Of the total $3.8 million owed to 1.8 million individual customers, only $242,407 had been claimed as of Feb. 28, according to the most recent quarterly report compiled by the DMV. That works out to just 6% of the total available refunds making it back to the individuals owed them.
The claim rate for business and fleet owners has been markedly better: $1.6 million of the $2.2 million owed back to those customers has been claimed by more than 44,500 businesses. That is 74% of the total available amount.
Altogether, that means $1.86 million of a total $6 million available — 31% — has made it back to the people who paid it.
That leaves almost $3.6 million unclaimed by individuals and $574,614 unclaimed by businesses and fleet owners.
Businesses were mailed checks and a letter explaining the refund in February 2022. The DMV will make one more attempt and reissue another batch of checks to businesses “in the next few weeks,” according to spokesperson Kevin Malone.
Individuals were not mailed checks or directly told they were owed anything. Instead, the DMV has relied on media and social media to get the word out. When developing its refund plan, the DMV estimated it would have cost $7.8 million to issue $6 million worth of checks to everyone who was owed a refund. They said the cost of programming the refunds as credits to people’s accounts would have been similarly cost prohibitive.
The plan agreed to by the court and litigants set a $2.3 million budget for issuing the refunds. That appropriation came from the State Highway Fund. As of Feb. 28, the DMV had expended $584,953 of that. The remainder will revert back to the State Highway Fund.
For the average Nevadan, the amount owed to them is likely only a few dollars. According to a DMV spokesperson, the average refund for individual customers was $2.95, and $35.94 for businesses.
To get their money back, Nevadans have to physically visit a branch of the DMV (no DMV partner offices or kiosks allowed). They can only visit on weekdays — not weekends — though they do not need an appointment and should not have to wait in line because there is a dedicated window, according to the DMV’s website.
Refunds, which are paid in $1 bills, can only be picked up by the person who is owed the refund, meaning you cannot pick up your spouse or roommate’s refund. In cases where the technology fee was attached to a vehicle owned by more than one person, the refund can only be given to the “mail-to owner.”
People can email their name and driver’s license or identification card number to [email protected] to find out how much they are entitled to.
The saga of the DMV technology fee refund stems from Senate Bill 542 and Senate Bill 551 of the 2019 Legislative Session, which passed the state Senate on simple majority votes and were expected to bring in $105 million in revenue to the state. Democrats at the time were one state senator shy of a supermajority. Democratic leadership argued the bills didn’t need to pass with a two-thirds majority because both bills involved removing sunset provisions of existing taxes — as opposed to creating a brand new tax.
Senate Republicans disagreed and sued. In May 2021, the Nevada Supreme Court sided with them unanimously and ordered the state to refund any money that had been collected.
The majority of that estimated $105 million in revenue — $98.2 million — was attached to SB 551, which removed the sunset provision of the state’s modified business tax.
In August 2021, the Nevada Department of Taxation announced it had refunded an initial $30.6 million, which included interest, to 22,621 taxpayers in compliance with the court ruling.
The Department of Taxation ignored emails and phone calls from the Current seeking updated information.