Carson business owner reeling from DMV fine
A Carson City business owner is facing a nearly $160 fine as a result of a 21 cent calculating error with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
“This is insanity in government,” said Willi Ruppel, president of A-L Sierra Welding Products on Highway 50. “It’s 21 cents. I’ll give them a dollar, they can keep the change.”
For his business, Ruppel is required to document all of his truck driving out of state and report that to the Department of Motor Vehicles to pay fuel taxes to those other states.
In his last quarter’s filings, he calculated California’s diesel fuel tax at .43 cents per gallon. His total due came to $4.80.
However, the tax was actually .437, making his total due $5.01.
For the 21 cent discrepancy, he was assessed a penalty of $50.83 along with 8 cents of interest and a $100 administrative fine.
Ruppel said the DMV also erred on the form, saying he originally owed $13.11, charging him for miles driven in Nevada.
All together, his new balance is $159.22.
The department cited a new law where any incorrect statement is considered past due and will be treated as such.
“When tax is due and the payment is not submitted with the specified quarterly tax return, the return is considered incomplete and not filed timely,” according to a letter dated Feb. 22 from Cara O’Keefe, a revenue officer at the DMV. “Additionally, the department reserves the right to refer your account to a private collection agency….”
Ruppel said he could understand the harsh penalties if the discrepancy was hundreds of dollars.
He said he was initially sure DMV officials would work with him to correct the error.
He was mistaken.
He said he was told the matter was out of their hands and he would need to request a special hearing to address the issue.
“The tax returns are required to be paid in full by the due date,” O’Keefe said in an interview Friday. “I do what the law tells me to do.”
Ruppel questions if the law is being applied as it should be.
“Was this the intent of the Legislature when they enacted this?” he asked. “How much do you think a hearing is going to cost the state?”
In the 20 years he has run his business in Carson City, he’s made some similar filing mistakes. The most recent he could find was a 26-cent error in the last quarter of 2007.
In that instance, the 26 cents was added to the next quarter’s filings.
“There’s precedence for this,” he said.
However, O’Keefe said she’d never heard of settling an error in such a manner.
Ruppel said he feels frustrated and helpless.
“I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “My goodness, if in my business someone came in and argued with me over 21 cents, and they were right, it wouldn’t be worth my time to argue with them.”
At best, he hopes legislators will take notice and perhaps modify Nevada Revised Statute 366.395 to allow minor accounting errors to be corrected without the cost of a special hearing.
“It wasn’t malicious. It wasn’t intentional,” he said. “I made a mistake, a paltry mistake.”