NEW PORT RICHEY — Thousands of dollars in tag and title fees that would have gone to processing companies and tax offices outside Pasco will now stay in the county.
County Tax Collector Mike Fasano said he recently struck deals with third-party processing companies, as well as tax collectors in Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties, to remit those fees to Pasco.
The fees run $6.75 per transaction — $2.50 per registration and $4.25 per title — but can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over time. Fasano estimated monthly remittances of $20,000 to $25,000 because of deals struck this past month.
The agreement with Palm Beach goes into effect in November; the one with Hillsborough's tax office is already in place.
The fees stem from processing the tag and title paperwork associated with vehicle sales. State law allows that work to be handled by third-party companies. Some of these companies are based outside Pasco but do business at local dealerships. For years, Pasco missed out on the fees because most of the companies doing the paperwork dealt with tax offices in Palm Beach, Hillsborough and other counties where they're based.
Fasano, a former state lawmaker, learned about the lapse when he took office in August after his predecessor Mike Olson died. He sent 125 letters to local car dealers and contacted tax collectors to create agreements.
"I think this is extremely important," he said. "This is a great opportunity to return revenue to Pasco County that should have never left Pasco County, and it's not costing the taxpayers any additional money for staff."
The deal with Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden remits all of the fees to Pasco. The one with Palm Beach remits only half. But because of a separate agreement with a Palm Beach-based tag and title agency, K&J Management Services LLC, most of the remaining amount will come to Pasco.
All together, Fasano figures his office will recover 96 percent of the fees that otherwise would have left the county.
"It might even be higher than that," he said, adding that one or two title companies send their paperwork to Miami-Dade, "but it's a very small amount."
Last week he visited two dealerships — AutoNation Cadillac and Ed Morse Auto Plaza, both of Port Richey — whose vendors send tag and title fees to Miami-Dade's tax collector. "I asked them to please do their best to keep the fees in Pasco," he said, adding he hasn't gotten a response to his request. AutoNation referred him to the company's corporate headquarters in Fort Lauderdale.
Fasano isn't sure how to use the windfall, which might come back to the county or be used toward opening a new tax office to replace one destroyed in a storm two years ago.
"My hope is it will help toward the expenses once we open that Wesley Chapel office," he said.
Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.