What will happen if I don’t renew my auto registration? Roadshow – The Mercury News

Q: How does California enforce annual vehicle license renewals and tags? During a walk around my neighborhood, I saw one vehicle with a 2018 tag, one with 2014 and one with 1992. If these people are not paying their annual license fee, will anyone ever catch them?

David Stearns, Concord

A: Oh, yes. State officials insist they are on top of this for in-state offenders. According to Fred-a-Franchise-Tax Man: “In regards to vehicle registration scofflaws who don’t pay their fees, I can guarantee your readers that the Franchise Tax Board does indeed garnish their wages. I work in payroll and we get these notices on a regular basis, sadly.”

The state Franchise Tax Board can garnish up to 25% in wages from residents driving with expired tags. It collects around $170 million a year and the CHP issues around 255,000 tickets a year for registration violations.

Tickets aren’t usually issued unless tags are six months out of date. If you’re aware of someone who hasn’t complied, you can report them anonymously to the CHP’s website at It’s important to get the license plate number, the date, time and location where you observed the vehicle, plus the make, model and color of the vehicle.

Q: We notice that some license plate tags say “2020” or “2021” while others say “20” or “21”.  Is there some deep meaning to the difference?

Paul Gregory, Palo Alto

A: The DMV issues two kinds of vehicle registration stickers. Those who complete their registration directly with DMV are issued tags with four digits for the year of expiration. The other version with a two-digit year indicator is issued for those who use DMV self-service terminals or business partners like AAA.

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Q: I submitted an application for personalized specialty plates and paid the $50 fee in early July. Nothing came in the mail, so I tried to find answers on the DMV website. Other than saying that processing of personalized plates “has been suspended,” there’s nothing I can learn about my application and fee. Has my application been canceled — in which case they owe me 50 bucks — or should I just wait longer than the 14 weeks I’ve waited so far?

Charles Lindsey, Bob Turner and a few more

A: Wait a little longer. The issuance of personalized license plate orders has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. But the DMV anticipates service may resume in the next 30 days.


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