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Mississippi license plates are sometimes expensive due to local property tax rates

TOO HIGH: Mississippi auto and truck owners pay heavily for their license plates thanks local property taxes. Photo graphic by Steve Wilson

Paying for a license plate in Mississippi can be an expensive proposition, as evidenced by research from Mississippi Matters using data from the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

What makes Mississippi tags so expensive is the ad valorem property tax, levied by counties, municipalities and school districts. While each local government entity can control millage, the Mississippi Legislature controls the rate of assessment, which is 30 percent for vehicles. This is reduced over 10 years to account for depreciation. The minimum assessment of a vehicle’s value is $100.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation ranks Mississippi as 35th worst on state and local property taxes per capita. New Jersey is the nation's worst.

Mississippi Matters used the two most best-selling vehicles in the U.S. — the Toyota Camry and the Ford F-150 — to find out how much license tags cost statewide. The 2019 Camry LE sedan has a manufacturer's suggest retail price of $25,070, while a 2019 F-150 XLT extra cab with four wheel drive and a V-8 has an MSRP of $43,285.

The most expensive license plates in the state are in the Delta city of Belzoni. Buying plates for a F-150 in the state's Catfish Capitol will set back a new owner $2,938.35, while the Camry will cost $1701.86.

Living in the unincorporated county can save many property owners hundreds when they go to renew their license plates. Those same plates in unincorporated Humphreys County would be $1,232 for the Camry and $2,128 for the F-150.

The state average for counties for the Camry was $790.18 and $1,364.28 for the F-150. Cities were more expensive, averaging $1,011,15 for the Camry and $1,745.80 for the F-150.

The difference is in the millage rates. County residents statewide have to pay millage for the county's governmental operations and another set to support a school district. City residents pay a smaller millage rate to the county where the city is located, millage for the local school district and then a separate charge for their city.

The cheapest tags in the state are in Winston County. The Camry's plates will cost only $306, while the F-150's plates will set back the consumer on $528.

To calculate the prices, Mississippi Matters used a formula of total millage multiplied by 1,000 (millage is expressed as per $1,000 dollars of property value) and this number was multiplied by 30 percent value of the vehicle (in this case, the MSRP).

A discount determined annually by the state tax commission is subtracted from the vehicle's value and this program was passed by the Legislature in 1994 to help taxpayers. The state sends back a percentage of the state's revenue from sales tax from automobiles to counties and municipalities to help offset the discount.

Thirty percent of the Camry's MSRP minus the discount is $6,769, while 30 percent of the F-150's MSRP minus the discount is $11,687.

Prices on license plates go down over time as the car depreciates. The state tax commission sets the manufacturer's suggest retail prices for cars and trucks sold in the state and also calculates the rate of depreciation.

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