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A registration law with teeth

The day of reckoning for those who live in Utah but register a car or truck out of state to avoid paying vehicle property taxes is here. And it's about time.

For far too long thousands of people have been misrepresenting their circumstances and cheating cities, counties and school districts out of millions of dollars accrued from normal vehicle registration procedures.Nobody knows exactly how many Utah cars are registered out of state, but some estimate more than 70,000 this year were registered under false pretenses. That's where a Utah resident registers a car in Idaho or Oregon to save taxes.

Out-of-state college students and U.S. military personnel assigned in Utah are exempted from the new law, as they should be.

Two positive things have happened in the last year to crack down on illegal registration: The fine for improper registration has gone from $200 to a minimum of $1,000, and the Legislature in the last session approved a bill that uses computer matches to track down violators.

State Tax Commission officials are checking up on whoever has taken out insurance on a vehicle that isn't registered in Utah. Who would insure a car under those circumstances? Often, someone who has registered it illegally.

The new registration law actually took effect July 1, but legislators provided a grace period until Oct. 1 to allow violators to take care of the problem. All they needed to do was to quietly go to their local state/county registration station and pay up.

Those who failed to take advantage of the grace period must face the consequences of the new mandate. If a person is stopped on the road by law enforcement and he or she doesn't have proper Utah registration, the car will be impounded until taxes, registration, towing and impound fees are paid.

That is a steep but fair price for such a fraudulent practice.

If the registration is more than a year late, the local county assessor may by law ask for four years of back taxes. By practice, however, assessors usually go back just two years.

For law-abiding Utahns, the new law will have no affect. Those who are impacted need to learn their lesson and register their vehicles properly and honestly in the future.