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New conveniences at Stockbridge/McDonough tag offices

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  The Henry County Tax Commissioner’s office has taken a big step to make the motor vehicle tag process more convenient.

  Within the past three weeks, the office has begun accepting credit cards at both the McDonough and Stockbridge tag offices. Previously, customers coming to an office in person were required by pay by cash or check.

The Stockbridge and McDonough branches of the Henry County Tag and Tax Office will now accept payments by credit card.                                                             Special photo

  If the new service results in longer lines, that can be avoided as well. Thanks to a new wrinkle introduced on the tax commissioner’s web site a few months ago, a customer can see a web cam view of both offices for a real-time update on how long the lines actually are before leaving home or work.

  “This is something we wanted to do five years ago,” said Tax Commissioner David Curry. “But the regulations with Visa kept us from doing it.”

  Whenever a customer goes to a restaurant or retail store and pays with a credit card or debit card, there is a service charge involved. If that fee is not shown at checkout, it is usually either absorbed by the merchant or rolled into the price of the product or service being purchased.

  For a long time Visa has had a rule that its merchant customers could not directly charge a convenience fee in a face-to-face transaction, which made it impossible for a government entity like the Tax Commissioner’s office to utilize such a service because every dollar that is spent and taken in must be directly accounted for, and cannot be absorbed into the total cost like a regular business would do.

  Visa’s stance has recently changed with regard to government offices, schools and universities, according to Curry. That freed his office to seek out the best provider for the credit card processing service, and he selected a Texas-based firm called Certified Payments.

  “We finally are able to offer this convenience to our customers,” he said, “and a lot of people are taking advantage of it.”

  The convenience fee is 2.35 percent of the total purchase.

  The credit card option had previously been available for online renewals, but anyone mailing in a payment or going to the tag office in person had to use cash or check. There has also been a $1 convenience fee in place for processing one’s motor vehicle tag by mail.

  The new system will apply to every part of the Tax Commissioner’s office with the exception of the occupational tax, which can be taken care of online as well.

  For property tax payments, there is a separate computer terminal which can be accessed by customers at the tag office for credit card payments. That will remain in place, Curry said, and property tax payments can also be processed online from the comfort of the customer’s home.

  Using the new system only for motor vehicle tags at present will allow the office to see how the new vendor is working and give everyone time to get used to the process, the tax commissioner added. The majority of transactions handled each year by the tag office are for motor vehicles.

  The vetting of potential vendors took six months before the system was implemented just before Christmas, Curry said. A major factor in the decision was how reports would be generated that show the credit card activity, as each transaction must be accounted for in detail and not every potential service provider could help produce those detailed reports.

  In addition to being the least expensive, Certified Payments met all of the reporting requirements and provided equipment at no extra charge, so the cost to taxpayers for the new service is zero, according to Curry. The company already provides the same service for many other municipalities.

  All of the online services of the Henry County Tax Commissioner’s office can be accessed by visiting www.henrytc.org.

 

 

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