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Trucker Flat Tax Day

The wise man saved his money all year so there was enough cash to pay for the year-end holiday shopping. Hopefully he saved, or had enough income tax withheld from his paycheck, to satisfy the taxman on April 15th. For the truckers, the next day of reckoning in Illinois is June 30th. Some have already paid, some are still saving. Yet others are waiting until the last minute…and the truck enforcement officers will be lying in wait for them on July 1st.

There’s no doubt the cost of doing business in Illinois is not cheap. Vehicle registration (bloated with the commercial distribution fee) only adds more fuel to the fire. For Illinois carriers who are intrastate only, this mean their base plated trucks and trailers need to have 2016 registration renewed on or before July 1st, 2015.

Unlike many types of vehicle registration in Illinois, flat weight registration for 2nd division vehicles expires on June 30th. Cars can renew based on whichever of the twelve months the plates were originally obtained. Not so with truckers.

Flat weight registration is broken down into four quarters of the year, with the first three-month quarter beginning on July 1st. If a carrier goes to the Secretary of State on June 22nd, 2015 to purchase the full years registration for 2016, he will pay the full fee.

What trips up many carriers is when they purchase registration for a new truck midway through the registration year. It seems illogical that a carrier who buys a new truck on June 22nd, 2015 will pay for 2015 registration, only for it to expire eight days later.

Unfortunately, that’s how it goes and that’s why the rate is discounted each quarter. The registration is not valid year-to-date from the day it was purchased.

On July 1st, the truck enforcement officers of Illinois will be on the hunt for yellow 2015 stickers. The purple 2016 stickers is what will keep the trucks rolling. When a police officer finds a truck or trailer without the registration fees paid, the truck will be weighed and it will be issued an overweight on registration citation.

The fine will be based on the full annual fee, no matter which quarter in the registration year the citation occurred. The SOS may very well sell registration at the pro-rated fees, but fines for the crime of overweight on registration is different.

There’s a new law in 2015 though. The Illinois General Assembly has mandated a level of discretion for the police. Currently, if a police officer sees an expired sticker, and a check through the SOS database shows it was indeed expired, the overweight citation would be issued.

Under this new law, Public Act 98-1103, the same scenario may have a different conclusion depending on receipt documentation carried in the truck. If the driver can show fees have been paid to the Secretary of State, even though the registration is expired in the system, then the officer cannot write the overweight citation.

This new law codifies a practice which the ITEA has been encouraging its truck officers to follow for years. There is a catch however. Notice the law says a receipt from the Secretary. It does not say a currency exchange or a licensing service.

The ITEA will still admonish officers to use good discretion in deciding whether or not to honor a receipt from a third-party service. A simple verification phone call to the issuing agency usually does the trick. Officers are also encouraged to not be dogmatic in requiring the receipt to physically be in the truck. A scan or a fax copy of the receipt should suffice.

As always, no police officer may write an overweight on registration citation without actually weighing the vehicle on approved and certified scales. Lazy police work using the manufacturers GVWR or the previous years registered weight are unlawful.

It’s a cat and mouse game on July 1st. Truckers, make sure to get your plates renewed on time.

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