Proof of overpayment to OMV entitles a person to a refund
Sen. Magalei Logovi’i has voiced to ASG Treasurer Uelinitone Tonumaipea the government policy when it comes to reimbursing the public if they are overcharged; for example, the registration renewal of vehicles at the Office of Motor Vehicles that appears to have overcharged car owners for many years.
Magalei raised the issue and sought an explanation on refunds when Tonumaipea appeared before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for a hearing last Friday morning on federal deductions — FICA and Medicare — being imposed on allowance checks for lawmakers. (See yesterday’s Samoa News for details).
The senator is the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman.
The Tualauta Senator recalled a Senate Public Safety Committee hearing held a day earlier, during which Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale testified regarding OMV registrations.
Magalei explained the issue at the center of Thursday's hearing, and said the government was incorrect in their interpretation of the law, regarding vehicle registration renewal.
The first time a vehicle is registered, it's $32 plus $12 per ton of weight. For motor vehicle renewals it’s $32. However, in the past, the practice has been to add $12 as part of the renewal process.
The senator said the OMV has continued this long standing practice of adding $12 for renewal registration. He said some senators had asked if vehicle owners can be reimbursed or get a refund for the overpaid amount and the Attorney General’s reply was “no”.
Magalei, who served as ASG Treasurer during the Togiola Administration, informed Tonumaipea that he was not pleased or happy with the Attorney General’s response to senators, especially when the matter does not fall under the AG’s jurisdiction, but the purview of the ASG Treasury.
According to the senator, he didn’t want to counter Talauega’s response nor correct the AG during his response at the time, but he wanted to wait until Tonumaipea appeared during Friday’s already scheduled hearing for a direct response on the matter for all senators.
Magalei said that only when the Treasurer has a different interpretation of the law, is when the AG’s opinion is sought.
So to his understanding, said Magalei, if a person brings a receipt to show that the government owes that individual a reimbursement, then a refund is made.
“Correct me if I am wrong,” Magalei asked Tonumaipea, who acknowledged that Magalei’s statement is true, saying that a person who overpays the government — for example, a registration fee — should get a refund on the overpaid amount.
Unless the person agrees to use the amount, to be refunded, as a credit towards a future renewal, Tonumaipea said and reiterated that the requirement is that a person is reimbursed the overpaid amount.
Magalei said that in order to get a refund, a person must provide a receipt — as proof of over payment — and Tonumaipea agreed.
Sen. Fa’amausili Mau Mau Jr., noted that the particular provision of the law in question, regarding the renewal fee, goes back to 1977 and that’s a lot of money (for refunds) to be paid, especially if the owner has more than one vehicle.
During Thursday’s Public Safety Committee hearing, Talauega told senators that no refunds were issued and none will be issued, saying "thank you for helping the government". Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson, who also testified at the hearing, said his office does not have jurisdiction over refunds or reimbursements, and he has never said that refunds will be issued.
Sen. Muagututi'a M.T. Tauoa urged the government to reimburse members of the public who have overpaid the renewal fee, adding that he is concerned with vehicle owners taking ASG to court, as it will be an embarrassment to the government.
Paraphrasing a quote from the Bible, Muagututi'a said God will punish those who want their neighbor's property.
During Le’i’s testimony last Thursday afternoon before the House Public Safety Committee, he explained to lawmakers that he never made any statements that refunds will be issued because it is not in his jurisdiction.
He also told House members that OMV has already halted the $12 charge for people renewing their registration.
Samoa News in its OMV hearing story published last week Friday, July 14, 2017, pointed out that it is not just an extra $12 or overcharge of $12 that was added on to the renewal fee of $32.
It was an actual extra $12 per ton of weight/ every 2,000 pounds. Keeping it simple: If OMV said your vehicle weighed 4,000 pounds or 2 tons, then you paid $24, plus the $32, and don’t forget the inspection fee of $9. This is a total of $65 for your renewal, which probably was the same amount you paid on the original registration of your vehicle.
This makes up for much more than a $12 overcharge on each person's registration renewal. The simple math according to the statute on registration renewal is $32 (renewal fee) plus $9 (inspection fee), equals $41.00. Minus this amount from your renewal receipts and you have the amount you have been overcharged.
Samoa News also pointed out in its story published last Friday that a question could also be raised about the ‘official’ weight schedule OMV uses to charge per ton of weight for a vehicle. It is not specified in the statute.
- Current statute from the Annotated Code of American Samoa, written in 1977:
Title 22 - Highways and Motor Vehicles; Chapter 10; Section 22.1002- Application for and issuance of license-Fees;
Subsection (d) The following vehicle license registration fees are established:
(1) motor vehicle, including private vehicles, cargo vehicles, buses, motorcycles, taxis, trailers, tractors and rentals, $32.00; plus per ton of weight, $12.00;
(2) bicycle, $2.00;
(3) renewal for motor vehicle, $32.00;
(4) Legal Ownership Certificates and Titles, $10.00; (etc…)
Notice d) (1) gives us the tag fees for a first time registration. This is either a new vehicle purchase here or a vehicle brought on island for the first time. Next, d) (3) shows us the renewal fee for any vehicle regardless of size, weight or usage is $32. Period. (A $9 inspection fee is also assessed to ensure safe driving in American Samoa.)