Frequently Asked Questions - TBD Vehicle License Fee

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about Vancouver Transportation Benefit District's $20 Vehicle License Fee. Additional answers and new information will be added as they become available.

Q: Why is there a $20 TBD fee on my vehicle license renewal?

A: Washington law allows cities and counties to establish a Transportation Benefit District and raise funds to pay for taking care of and improving street systems. Vancouver established a Transportation Benefit District in late 2015, and adopted a $20 vehicle license fee to help pay for taking care of our street system. The fees paid in Vancouver, stay in Vancouver. 

Q: When did the TBD $20 fee take effect?

A: The $20 vehicle license fee took effect on July 1, 2016. The Washington State Department of Licensing collects the fee at the time a vehicle registered within the City of Vancouver is renewed. If you have more than one vehicle, you will pay the fee on each vehicle when its registration comes up for renewal. 

Q: Does the TBD license fee apply to all vehicles registered in Vancouver?

A: Is the vehicle being registered to an address in the state of Washington for the first time? If yes, that would not be considered a license renewal and, therefore, not subject to the fee, according to the state Department of Licensing. This includes when licensing a brand new car for the first time or a licensing a vehicle transferred from or purchased from other states.

However, if the vehicle has been previously licensed in Washington, whether it's an already owned or a recently purchased used vehicle, the renewal $20 TBD fee would apply, per the state Department of Licensing.

The state law governing TBD fees also sets forth where the fees apply and a few areas where they are exempt. Complete information can be found in Washington law (RCW 82.80.140) here. For example:

- Vehicles subject to the fees include, but are not limited to: passenger vehicles, trucks that weigh 6,000 pounds or less, motorcycles, tow trucks, taxicabs, private use trailers more 2,000 pounds, and travel trailers.

- Vehicles exempt from these license tab fees include, but are not limited to: campers, off-road vehicles, mopeds, personal use trailers with a single axle and weighing less than 2,000 pounds, government vehicles, private school vehicles and vehicles properly registered to disabled American veterans. 

Q: How can I check whether my the address where my vehicle is registered is within the City of Vancouver? 

A: Postal address alone does not determine if your residence or business is located within the City of Vancouver. The best way to check is to visit the Clark County Property Information Center website here. Enter your property address where the vehicle is registered and hit the search button. You should see the property's Account Summary page (Account tab). Look in the first column, Administrative Data, for Jurisdiction. If Jurisdiction is listed as Vancouver, your vehicle is registered within the City of Vancouver.

 

Q: Who approved the Vancouver TBD fee?

A: State law RCW 36.73 (leg.wa.gov) allows a city or county government to create a transportation benefit district (TBD) and impose an additional vehicle registration fee to fund local transportation projects. The fee was one of the recommendations made by a special Streets Funding Commission, established to help find solutions for improving our community's streets. The Vancouver City Council supported those recommendations and formed a Vancouver Transportation Benefit District in November 2015. The license fee was adopted by the TBD after a public hearing in December 2015.

Q: How much money will be raised by Vancouver's vehicle license fees?

A: The vehicle license fees are expected to raise about $1.2 million in 2016, based on registration renewals starting in July. In 2017, the first full year of vehicle registration renewals, the TBD license fee is expected to raise about $2.4 million. 

Q: How will the money raised by these vehicle license fees be used?

A: By state law, the money raised by TBD fees can only be used on improving our transportation system. TBD license fees paid in Vancouver, stay in Vancouver. This includes upgrading substandard roads, improving pavement conditions, and improving ADA accessibility, mobility and neighborhood safety.

Q: Are these fees being used to fund C-TRAN?

A: No. The vehicle license fees are not related to C-TRAN or current C-TRAN projects.

Q: Do other cities in Washington have vehicle license fees?

A: Yes. The state Department of Licensing lists 51 cities, including Vancouver and Battle Ground, which have formed transportation benefit districts and adopted vehicle license fees to fund transportation maintenance and improvements. 

Q: There are other increased fees on my vehicle registration renewal statement, too. Is this part of the Vancouver TBD?

A: The $20 vehicle license fee is the only one imposed by Vancouver’s Transportation Benefit District and the money's the raises can only be used to improve and take care of the street system in Vancouver. For information on other fees on your registration renewal, please contact the state Department of licensing. You can also read about state fee increases on this Department of Licensing webpage

 
Q: Is this a one-time fee?

A: No, it is an annual fee to provide needed additional, ongoing funding for taking care of and improving the street system in Vancouver. 

Q: What about those vehicles not properly registered and not paying their fair share?

A: Washington residents are required to register their vehicles within 30 days. If you suspect someone has not properly registered their vehicle, per Washington law, and would like to report it, you can do so online or send an email directly to LicenseFraud@wsp.wa.gov. Additional information about reporting vehicle license fraud and registration requirements can also be found on this Washington State Patrol webpage. If you recently moved here and are unsure about requirements, you may also wish to read this state Department of Licensing webpage.

Q: What is the penalty for registering a vehicle in another state, evading payment of any tax or vehicle license fee connected with registration?

A: Penalties are substantial, and can include jail time and hefty fines, plus any other assessments, delinquent taxes and fees. Click on this link to the Washington law, RCW 46.16A.030, for details. According to the law, " It is a gross misdemeanor for a resident, as identified in RCW 46.16A.140, to register a vehicle in another state, evading the payment of any tax or vehicle license fee imposed in connection with registration." 

Q: Why didn't I hear about this? Was this discussed publicly?

A: The fees were adopted following an advertised public hearing. There were several reports and media articles leading up to and following the adoption of the street funding strategies, which include the vehicle license fees. In addition, the City conducted an extensive public engagement process during 2015 to gather input on possible ways to increase funding to improve the street system. This process included neighborhood, civic and business organization presentations; an online interactive web tool; printed handouts; videos; and social media. In general, community members who participated indicated support for additional funding for streets, with a preference for the vehicle license fee and an increase in the business license surcharge. Sales tax and property tax increases were the least preferred.

Q: Will this funding help improve the look of our medians? 

A: The Streets Funding Commission recommended that the City use some additional streets funding to restore traditionally maintained rights of way and medians to pre-2009 recession levels. That will mean more mowing and fewer weeds along major City streets than has been the case since the recession and related layoffs. Funding for this, however, will come from other street funding strategies, such as the increase in business license surcharge implemented in January 2016, not the TBD vehicle license fees.

Q: My street has potholes. Will this fee pay for fixing them?

A: Regular maintenance of the street system, including fixing potholes, signs and signals, is funded by general fund tax dollars, including property and sales tax. Please contact Vancouver Public Works Operations for service requests such as these. Call 360-487-8177 or submit through our MyVancouver app or the online Public Works service request form.

Q: Why did the City need more funding to improve streets?

A: The City has an estimated backlog of more than $130 million in streets needing pavement maintenance and/or full reconstruction. Without additional funding, that backlog is expected to grow to $250 million by 2034. Existing funding is not adequate to maintain pavement conditions, upgrade safety, reconstruct failed streets and improve mobility. Funding for pavement preservation has relied on revenues that haven't been able to keep up with the pace of deterioration in the system. In the past, the City has relied on a strategy of borrowing to pay for street construction, financing those upgrades of substandard rural roads by taking on debt. The City has lacked a program for proactive replacement of street signals and lighting, and many citizens have commented on the lack of “curb appeal” from reduced levels of maintenance in median and right‐of‐way areas, a result of decreased service levels since the 2009 recession. These are the realities that led to efforts to address long-term street funding strategies in Vancouver.

Q: Have there been audits or reviews to make sure the City is using existing dollars efficiently and effectively?

A: Yes. Large capital transportation projects with grant funding are subject to rigorous financial and project management audits. The City also regularly conducts internal reviews of programs to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and is subject to annual fund reviews by the state Auditor's Office. Street programs and projects have been the subject of even more analysis and evaluation in recent years, including commissioning an outside review of the City's street program outcomes and performance

Q: When will we start to see these street improvements?

A: The improvements will come over time as the funding ramps up. The City expects to begin receiving the additional funding from the vehicle license fees later this year. Other increased funding for streets began in January 2016, and will ramp up over the next few years. 

Q: Where can I learn more about this?

A: Extensive information – including reports, meeting notes, videos and more – is available on the City's website at www.cityofvancouver.us/betterstreets

Q: Who can I call if I have more questions?

A: Please email us at betterstreets@cityofvancouver.us or contact Public Works Communications at 360-487-8255. We'll be happy to answer your questions and, if needed, put you in touch with others who can provide more information.