It’s your birthday and you’re celebrating with family and friends with a trip to your favorite restaurant.
In the midst of all the fun, suddenly you remember you never stopped by the courthouse to renew your car tags. And guess what, it’s now 7:30 p.m. and the courthouse is closed for the day.
In a panic, you hope you don’t get stopped by a policeman on the way to work the next day with an expired tag decal shining on the back of your car.
Soon, though, you won’t have to worry about such a scenario, thanks to a kiosk being installed at the Walnut Avenue Kroger through the Georgia Department of Revenue and the Whitfield County Tax Commissioner’s Office. That location, instead of the Cleveland Highway Kroger, was chosen after a study by the kiosk company discovered the most residents, by far, live nearby.
“For several years I’ve been trying to get the state to approve a kiosk of some sort,” Tax Commissioner Danny Sane said. “It’s been a very complicated issue because the state didn’t want to lose control of the actual renewal decals themselves because in the wrong hands they’re worth a lot of money.”
Starting in late March, however, Sane says Whitfield will become one of the few counties outside metro Atlanta to offer the kiosk service.
“The state has finally agreed and contracted with a company to build a kiosk for Whitfield County which will allow you to walk up to it and scan your license plate renewal notice, swipe your credit card to pay, and the machine will print your decal and hand it to you right then,” he said. “That’s a wonderful thing.”
And a fast thing, too.
As witnessed during a video on the state Department of Revenue website, the entire process can often be completed in about a minute if you bring your renewal notice. If you don’t have it with you, you can still get your decal, but it will take a little longer while the computer looks up your vehicles based on your driver’s license number.
The company in charge of the machine will be responsible for providing the decals and maintaining the machine, Sane said, and makes its money by collecting a convenience fee of around $3 per transaction (none of that money will go to the county, by the way). Sane says the company hopes to process 600 tags a month at the kiosk.
“It’s a complicated machine, but it’s going to be extremely user friendly,” he said. “I love it. This thing is no more complicated than going through the self-checkout systems they have at Lowe’s or Home Depot or Wal-Mart or anywhere else. You just run your renewal notice through there, and boom, boom, boom, you’re done.”
Sane believes the kiosk will prove to be popular with local residents but says its usefulness will be evaluated during a 12-month trial period. There should be plenty of potential users, considering that Whitfield County has more than 120,000 vehicle license plates.
While taxpayers already can renew those tags by visiting the tax office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, sending their payment through the mail or using an online system, Sane believes the kiosk will offer yet another option that will prove especially beneficial when time is critical.
“You can use the Internet 24/7, but it can still take a few days for the decals to reach you through the mail,” he said.
Sane also understands that some residents, especially those on fixed incomes, have to wait until the last day to renew their tags because of budgetary concerns, and he believes the kiosk will be helpful to them.
If the kiosk does prove useful, Sane foresees the possibility of the county buying its own machine and allowing it to be used to make other kinds of tax payments, including property tax. He’s also open to the idea of letting residents from other counties such as Murray or Catoosa use the kiosk here, noting a lot of people from those counties work in Dalton.
Sane says his office can’t control the amount of taxes due, but it can control how easy and convenient it is for residents to pay those taxes.