8/20/2012 2:15 PM ET|
Governments getting more fee-happy
Here's a sample of fees on cars:
- New York state now requires people to buy new plates when they register a car, and the cost of plates has risen from $15 to $25. Basic license and registration fees have increased 25%, with the cost of a basic driver's license going from $50 to $62.50.
- New Hampshire has doubled the registration fee for light cars and trucks, and raised registration fees by $30 for all other vehicles.
- Florida has raised new car-registration fees from $100 to $225 and boosted vehicle license fees and various other fees by 35%.
- Georgia has added a $10 motor vehicle registration fee and increased fines for people caught driving faster than 85 mph.
- Illinois has raised title fees from $65 to $105, boosted driver's license fees and increased the vehicle transfer fee from $15 to $30.
How to cope: Avoiding these fees is tough, but you can avoid adding to your pain by making sure you renew your registration and license on time. Renewing late can significantly add to your costs. If your state bases registration fees in part on your vehicle's value, that could be a reason to hang on to your current car longer and consider buying used, rather than new, the next time around.
Fees on tourists
A typical hotel or car rental bill will be larded with "tourism" taxes and fees that pay for amenities you may never enjoy, such as a stadium or convention center or future improvements to the city's infrastructure.
Again, the difference between taxes and fees is blurred, as the "taxes" target a defined group receiving a benefit (tourists buying a hotel room or renting a car), while the "fees" often pay for things that don't benefit the person paying.
Rent a car in Seattle, for example, and, in addition to the state car rental tax of 5.9%, you'll pay a 1% sports facility tax, a 60-cent fee to help pay for the Seattle Mariners' stadium and a 24-cent regional-transit tax.
Book a hotel room in New York City, meanwhile, and you'll pay an 8.9% state room tax, a 5.9% "room occupancy" tax, a $2 city tax and a $1.50 "fee tax" to help pay for the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
And governments continue to try to squeeze more from visitors. Colorado, Maine, Nevada and New York have raised rental car taxes, while Hawaii and Nevada recently raised hotel taxes. In addition:
- Hawaii has raised rental car surcharges and diverts some of the money into the state's general fund.
- Nevada has raised car rental fees in a move expected to generate $13 million annually.
How to cope: Never book a car or hotel room based solely on the per-day rate. With rental cars, especially, the taxes and fees can double the cost. Make sure you're seeing all the added fees and taxes before you commit.
Also, consider traveling to places that don't gouge tourists. A recent study by the Global Business Travel Association Foundation found that a traveler to Chicago, which has the highest tourist taxes, pays an average 80% more in taxes and fees than one who goes to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which has the lowest of the 50 cities studied. Other cities with high tourist taxes include New York, Seattle, Boston and Kansas City, Mo.
Rounding out the low-tax list: Fort Myers and West Palm Beach, Fla.; Detroit; and Portland, Ore.
Fees to snoop
Governments keep vast databases of information about you, but getting a peek will cost you more in many places, whether you're trying to get information about yourself or doing a background check on someone else.
- New Hampshire has raised the cost of a copy of a driving record to $15.
- Ohio has increased fees for vital-statistics requests, which include copies of birth, death and marriage certificates.
- Colorado has implemented a $10.50 fee for background checks for individuals applying for concealed-carry weapon permits.
- Washington state has raised its background-check fee on handgun purchases from $8 to $13.
How to cope: Keep vital records, such as birth, death and marriage certificates, in a secure place, such as a home safe or a safe deposit box, so you won't need to order replacements.
Fees to work
Many unemployment agencies now load benefits onto fee-laden prepaid cards -- a sort of a tax on jobless folks that benefits the card issuers rather than the states.
If, on the other hand, you have a job and need a license or permit to practice it, expect to pay more. Several states have raised their fees on a variety of professionals.
- Connecticut has increased license fees for certified public accountants from $75 to $150 per year and for gas station owners from $50 to $100 per pump per year. The state also has increased license fees for state marshals overseeing evictions, pharmacists, hypnotists, cigarette dealers, liquor stores, bait dealers, land surveyors, attorneys, electricians, plumbers, barbers, teachers and veterinarians.
- New York state has raised a slew of occupational fees, imposed a fee on tax preparers and increased the biennial registration fees for practicing lawyers by $25. The state also has adopted an additional fee for individuals taking the bar exam if they studied outside the U.S. The cost is now $750, up from $250.
How to cope: State governments know they've got you where you live. If you want to work, you have to pay. You might let your lawmakers know how you feel about their balancing their budgets this way, however.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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