Police take on excise tax evaders

KITTERY, Maine (AP) - It takes Sgt. Charles Denault barely two minutes to spot a dozen cars with out-of-state license plates parked in driveways and outside houses and apartments.

Excise Tax Scofflaws
Joel Page

In this Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009 photo, Sgt. Charles Denault, of the Kittery Police Department poses with a stack of summonses for excise tax evasion in Kittery, Maine. Denault goes on patrols looking for vehicles that are registered in other states, especially New Hampshire, but owned by people who live in Maine. (AP Photo/Joel Page)

Excise Tax Scofflaws
Joel Page

Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, Sgt. Charles Denault, of the Kittery Police Department speaks with Ian Thomas as he issues him a summons for excise tax evasion in Kittery, Maine. Denault goes on patrols looking for vehicles that are registered in other states, especially New Hampshire, but owned by people who live in Maine. (AP Photo/Joel Page)

Driving his cruiser along this streets of coastal Kittery, Denault is on the lookout for vehicles registered in other states - especially New Hampshire - but owned by people who live in Maine.

"They're everywhere," Denault said as he points out car after car with New Hampshire plates. "It's like dandelions that keep popping up."

By professing to live in New Hampshire, Mainers can avoid paying a 5 percent sales tax when they buy a vehicle. They also don't have to buy car insurance, which is required in Maine but not in New Hampshire. And people who work in New Hampshire can also avoid paying Maine's income taxes if they claim a New Hampshire residence.

A side effect is that they may end up paying slightly more to register their car in New Hampshire - a negligible worry for Mainers already skipping out on paying other taxes but potentially devastating to towns like Kittery, which hurt as tax collections and state aid to the town go down.

Police say some people simply aren't aware that they're required by law to have Maine plates after 30 days of becoming a resident. But all too often, said Kittery Police Chief Ed Strong, money is the motivator.

Strong said offenders use all sorts of tricks to get around the law: Some claim to live at a relative's New Hampshire home or use the address of a rental or seasonal property.

"We have found people that have dummy addresses in New Hampshire to register their vehicles," Strong said.

Nobody knows for sure how many excise tax evaders there are in Maine or how much money the state and local towns are losing because of them.

In Maine, it would cost $305 in excise taxes and fees to register a 3-year-old midsize car with a retail price of $20,000; the same vehicle would cost $313.20 to register in New Hampshire.

Kittery police typically write 150 to 200 summonses a year for excise tax evasion, although the pace has accelerated over the past year.

But other towns aren't so vigilant.

Maine Revenue Services issued a report last year that concluded excise tax enforcement is a low priority in most of Maine's border towns.

Still, at the request of the Legislature, the agency this summer appointed an agent to work with municipalities to help them identify scofflaws, said Errol Dearborn, who heads the enforcement division of Maine Revenue Services. The aim is to boost excise tax collections on the local level and sales tax collections for the state.

Everybody ends up paying to make up for the people who are scamming the government out of taxes, Dearborn said.

"It's tough on the people who are paying their excise taxes, and it's tough on everybody's property tax," he said.

On Kittery's streets, Denault says, he knows which cars with New Hampshire plates belong to workers who only come to Maine for their jobs and which cars show up night after night at the same house or apartment.

On a recent November morning, Denault knocked on people's doors and handed out a half-dozen summonses. One woman told him the car with New Hampshire plates in her driveway was owned by her sister who was visiting, but she later came out of her house to admit she was lying.

Each summons carries a potential fine of $911. If a person also doesn't have a Maine driver's license, the fine can jump another $137.

Ian Thomas, a 27-year-old cook, was one of the unlucky ones, getting a ticket because his car has a North Carolina plate on it. Thomas said his mother gave him the car a couple of years ago, but it's still registered in her name in her home state. He said he didn't know he had to register it in Maine.

"It's quite a hit," he said as Denault wrote him a ticket that could cost him nearly $1,000. "If I'd known, I would have registered it here sooner."

Not everybody's as honest, Denault said. Some people hide in their home when they see him coming. Others claim they don't live there. Or they lie about who owns the car parked outside.

"Some people say, 'This isn't fair. This is harassment,'" Denault said. "But it's a clear-cut violation of the law."

Maine isn't the only place to crack down on excise tax offenders. Border towns in Massachusetts also are on the lookout for people who illegally register their cars in New Hampshire. Police in Lawrence in the past have cracked down by towing away offenders' cars.

Denault doesn't plan to go that far, but he doesn't intend to stop cracking down, either.

"The problem's getting worse," he said. "And these people are getting a free ride."

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Mark Turek's picture

Since a large amount of our

Since a large amount of our “excise tax dollars” are actually being used to fund political campaigns (not road & bridge repairs), doesn’t this fact bother any of the liberals? Here are a few examples as proof:

1. http://www.memun.org/public/publications/townsman/2009/10-09.pdf - produced with 100% tax dollars

2. http://www.memun.org/public/MMA/svc/SFR/initiatives/default.htm - produced with 100% tax dollars

3. Massive donations by Maine Municipal Association (100% tax dollars) for groups like “Citizens Unified for Maine's Future” as reported at http://www.mainecampaignfinance.com/public/entity_summary.asp?TYPE=PAC&I...

Martha Burnell's picture

Since I moved to PA in 1996

Since I moved to PA in 1996 I have paid a flat rate to register my vehicle. As far as I can determine, it is one rate for a car and a about 15 - 20 dollars higher for a truck, regardless of age or size.


The Excisew tax in MAINE is

The Excisew tax in MAINE is nothing short of robbery these scum police collectors are a shame to thier uniform they shold refuse to do this duty as it is robbery!! I have a 94 pontiac it is taxed at get this 16,000.00 yeah i ASKED THE STUPID WOMAN AT THE CITY OFFICE then told her there has never been or will be that pays the SRP which is always an inflated price (State,city,county workers are the leaches causing this to happen in the first place) Secondly I told her i should be taxed for the value she asked me how much should that be and i said maybe 500. 00 she just laughed I just hope a city plow hits me this winter then they have to pay me 16000.00 right I mean thats the value right, find me a judge who will order that, therfore it is robbery. Oh my Mother-in-Law in tenn pays like 60 bucks a year her car is only a few years old. Like I said The corruption in the northern states is worse than it was in chitown during the depression the only option left is to get rid of all existing politicians and trun the state over to Non-Union Private sector!!! AND WATCH AS YOUR TAXES FOR THE FIRST TIME FALL QUICKLY No more benefits the rest of the people cant afford no more lackys to grease with our HARD EARNED TAX DOLLARS oh WHAT A DREAM but.... some day!

 's picture

hey loanar you shouldnt be

hey loanar you shouldnt be so narrow minded. i know 3 people that do this an they probaly got more money than us both. some people do this just because their greedy. if people cant live with the laws of maine they shouldnt live in maine. those laws are in place for very good reasons and who ever dont like it can get out an move to nh. and when someone totals your car in an accident an dont have insurance an your stuck paying for your car that now lives in the junkyard youll wish you were back in maine. an before someone says i must be a democrat your wrong im a republican that happens to love maine. people are not gonna agree with every law that a state makes but we must embrace them an work to change the ones we dont agree with not run to the border and break the law.........buzzing22

Norman McNamara's picture

Former pres bush Sr. never

Former pres bush Sr. never pays Maine income tax and has had dual citizeen ship forever.

Steve Violette's picture

Here's an idea. How about

Here's an idea. How about making drugs legal and tax them like you would anything else? It saves us from supporting drug dealers in jail and we get to tax legal drug dealers legally.

Ellen Levesque's picture

There is a vehicle in

There is a vehicle in Belgrade at the farm house at the corner of 27 and 8/11 that has Mass plates on it and has had for the 2+ years that it has been there. They changed the plates on the black suburban to maine but not the wife's vehicle. Guess they figure they don't have to change them both but the kids are in school in the district so I would think they are residents.

Mark Turek's picture

Shame on those tax

Shame on those tax evaders... they aren't doing their part for the liberal agenda of Maine's Far Left. In case you haven't noticed, here's how it works in Maine. The political Far Left are running the State of Maine, and our local and state tax dollars have become a major part of their political machine:
1) Most of us are forced to pay taxes/fees to our state and local governments and various other unions/associations;
2) Through a variety of highly questionable and potentially illegal accounting games, a significant amount of these forced taxes/fees are then used to fund strong political activities/campaigns in support of the Far Left's agenda.
3) After these campaigns have been successful in keeping the Far Left candidates in office, or perhaps implementing a new entitlement program for the far Left, their political machine has done its job... hence, the cycle starts over again.

As a few recent examples here in Maine, just look at the political donations reported (and don't forget all of the non-reported donations) from groups like AFL-CIO, SEIU, ACORN, National Education Association and the powerful Maine Municipal Association - posted at:

Hmmmmmm, could these excise tax evaders be making a statement that they don't want their tax dollars to be used for political purposes? Are they speaking out against the one-sided and Far Left actions of our so-called "state leaders" in Augusta and our local governments?

IMO, these tax evaders actually deserve a standing ovation for their efforts against the crooked Left.

Why don't uou move then!

Why don't uou move then!


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