There are a number of changes to the "County Tax" rates for 2017. Technically, these are called a "Discretionary Sales Surtax", but most dealers simply refer to them as the "County Tax" or "County Tax Rate."
A few reminders on these:
1. "The rate for motor vehicles is determined by the residence address of the purchaser (buyer) shown on the registration or title document" (See DOR GT400400, section 6). In other words, the county of the buyer determines tax rate, NOT the county where the dealership is located.
2. There is a taxable cap that is applied only to the first $5,000 of each sale.
These new rates take effect Januray 1st, 2017. If you have a dealer management system that computes state and discretionary taxes, make sure they are updated (or you update them) on that date! Put a reminder on your calendar if you need to, but don't forget!
Here is a link to the Florida Department of Revenue form DR-15DSS for 2017
If you sell qualified used Motor Vehicles, then you are familiar with the Buyer's Guide. It has been around since 1985 and the FTC started looking for comments on a number of proposed changes back in 2012. They have now released the revised guide.
From their website on November 10, 2016:
As announced today, the Commission is revising the Buyers Guide by:
- changing the description of an “As Is” sale;
- placing boxes on the face of the Buyers Guide that dealers can check to indicate whether a vehicle is covered by a third-party warranty and whether a service contract may be available;
- providing a box that dealers can check to indicate that an unexpired manufacturer’s warranty applies;
- adding air bags and catalytic converters to the Buyers Guide’s list of major defects that may occur in used vehicles;
- adding a statement that directs consumers to obtain a vehicle history report and to check for open recalls. The statement also instructs consumers to:
- visit ftc.gov/usedcars for information on how to obtain a vehicle history report; and
- visit safercar.gov to check for open safety recalls;
- adding a statement, in Spanish, to the English-language Buyers Guide, advising Spanish-speaking consumers to ask for the Buyers Guide in Spanish if the dealer is conducting the sale in Spanish; and
- providing a Spanish translation of the statement that dealers may use to obtain a consumer’s acknowledgement of receipt of the Buyers Guide.
The amended Rule permits dealers to use their remaining stock of Buyers Guides for one year after the effective date of the amended Rule.
The effective date is January 27th, 2017, so you technically have a full year from that date in which to use up remaining stock that you may have. However, why procrastinate? Switch to the updated version in a timely manner and if you use dealer management software, check to see when you can expect the new version to be released by them.
For those of you who hold a Motor Vehicle Retail Installment Seller License, it expires on December 31st of even numbered years (regardless of when you received the license). With 2016 being an even number, you will need to renew your license by the end of this year. Today I was told by the Department of Financial Services that the renewals will open sometime in the first week of November. You should receive several automated emails as a reminder but those could be missed if your email isn't up to date or ends up in your spam folder.
I have spoken to countless dealers over the years who have forgotten to renew it and have been fined.
You can find out more and renew your license HERE.
Also, don't forget that if you have an additional location in another county, you will need a branch office license. "In addition to the main location license, any subsequent location in another county other than the main office must be filed as a MVB: Motor Vehicle Retail Installment Branch Office by way of online."
If by some chance, you have been hiding under a rock and aren't aware of this license, I'd suggest you hop over to this page to find out more.
Some dealers are not aware that the State of Florida has a Procedures Manual that address many things that are handled at the tax collectors office (tag office). Most of these pertain to Title & Lien or Registration information. However, they also have one regarding Sales and Use Tax that has some helpful links and a good FAQ at the end. If you sign up for the email notifications then when there is a change, you receive an email alert. In the small box on the bottom of the first page there will be a description of what has been updated. Here's the one I received this morning regarding Sales and Use Tax.
Dealer Performance and Consulting is holding a Buy Here Pay Here Training Workshop January 12th-13th, in Tampa, FL. Mark Dubois has a long history in the business and is a twenty group moderator. Those of you who are users of Wayne Reaves Software should also be aware that there is an export feature specifically for Mark's twenty group. This makes it easier for you to participate in them and know more about your business.
You can find out more and register for the workshop by clicking the link below. DEALER PERFORMANCE BHPH WORKSHOP
Mark's site is DealerPerformanceAndConsulting.com
Have you ever noticed that if you see something day after day, you no longer really see it? This is a truism with many things. We are made to work like this. An example is that ache in your right knee. You remember when you first injured it the pain was there all the time. But, over time your brain does a good job of tuning it out until you actually think about it, like now. Then you notice it once again. This happens around dealerships all the time. However, to your prospective customer that comes to your dealership for the very first time, things stand out like a sore thumb. You know, that customer that you spent X number of dollars just to get them to call you, which took you time and effort on the phone to get them to make the trip to your dealership. THAT customer. (we will discuss that X number of dollars in another post)
To see these things from your customers’ perspective you must make a conscious effort to see and do things through your customers’ eyes. The best way I know to do this is to schedule it. That’s right, on your electronic calendar (you do have an electronic calendar, don’t you?) make a recurring reminder once a month to put on your customers “eyes” and to view your dealership.
So, what kind of things am I talking about? Well, I bet when you first opened the paint on the building and on the porch area was fresh and nice. The windows were clean, especially those glass front doors! The carpeted areas were like new, the shrubs were well maintained, etc. You get the idea. However, after walking in and out of the same place day after day, you don’t notice that the paint has faded and is now chipping, the front doors have hand prints all over them, the carpet has a big stain (you did notice that for the first 3 days) and the shrubs are sprouting in all directions!
You need to make an effort to see these things or you won’t see them until they are in really bad shape. Here’s a short list of things to check. It obviously is not a one-size-fits-all. Use it as a starting point and create your own.
- Put your dealerships address into a GPS, an android phone, an Apple phone… Does it take your customer to your location? If not, can you get this corrected or make sure you tell customers a reference point or what the issue is.
- Drive down the road to your dealership from both directions. How does it look? Are there trees or shrubs blocking the view? I have paid to have the neighbor’s trees cut down, shrubs cut back, etc., just so that the people driving down the four lane could see the front line of cars from further away.
- Speaking of that front line, I hope you are lining up the front of those cars at least once a week so that they are in a perfectly straight line.
- When was the last time you looked at your dealership at night? Do all the lights work?
- How is the “lawn maintenance”?
- How is the asphalt/concrete, etc?
- How is the paint on the outside?
- Is all of the glass clean?
- How does the shop look? Don’t just say, “It’s a shop, it’s supposed to be greasy.” Take a look at a Mercedes or BMW shop sometime. Why can’t yours look the same way? I guarantee you that if you have a shop that is nearly spotless, you will sell cars because of it.
- Look at everything around your office/shop/dealership. Does it need to be there? That part has been sitting on the shop desk for 3 weeks. Is it waiting on a customer? To be returned? Or is it just waiting on someone to notice it and make a decision?
- Now, walk in your front door. What is your “impression”? Do you get the feeling it’s organized? Welcoming? Or might it look like a paper grenade went off?
So, start the new year off by making yourself some appointments to view your dealership through your customers' eyes.