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New rules for vehicle titling, registration in Fayette County have big impact on ITIN users

ford in-depth INTN story
Posted at 6:57 PM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 17:24:59-04

FAYETTE COUNTY, Ky (LEX 18) — Drivers with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers will no longer be able to use them to complete the car titling and registration process.

This change comes as the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) gets tougher, with the enforcement of the historically controversial policy.

"An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service for tax purposes for people who can’t get a social security number for whatever reason. Both residents and nonresidents may have one.

Including someone legally residing in the United States who is filing a U.S. tax return. A student, professor, or researcher in the United States filing a U.S. tax return. A dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident."

Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. says he's not sure what changed. Fayette County was one of the only counties not complying with the rule and still accepting Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN). Customers from other countries would come to their office for that reason. However, recently, KYTC began rejecting the applications.

“I’ve fought this for a long time. The change was imposed on us by the Transportation Cabinet. I don’t agree with the decision but have no authority to change it,” said Blevins.

His office sent a memo dated August 9th that “effective immediately, at the direction of the Division of Motor Vehicle Licensing our office will no longer be accepting any paperwork listing an ITIN for an individual,” and informing that any paperwork submitted that day and after would be rejected.

The only approved documents now are a Kentucky Driver's License number, a Social Security Number, Visa, or Green Card.

Galaxy Auto Sales, which serves a large population of buyers using ITINs, says they were blindsided. Car salesman Austin Arroyo says they were informed their paperwork got rejected without notice of the change.

“At first, I had no idea what she was talking about,” said Arroyo. “The way I see it, Kentucky just brought the thing upon us without really a warning.”

It’s a change that could cost them thousands. However, they aren’t sure what to do next. Arroyo says they’ve gotten no guidance.

The car dealership says around 30% of their monthly car sales are for buyers who used ITINs. There are cars on the road with temporary tags that will soon expire.

“Right now, we haven't really had a solution or have been told the solution. It's basically, right now we cannot sell to anybody with just an ITIN number,” said Arroyo. “Worst case scenario, we have to buy back every car that we sold.”

They believe they aren’t the only dealership in this situation.

The exact number of people with ITINs is not readily available. Enforcement of this policy for vehicle titling/registration and titling transfers in Fayette County could cost thousands of dollars and impact thousands of people.

LEX 18 reached out to KYTC to find out why and to try to get to the bottom of the urgency.

Spokesperson Naitore Djigbenou said ITIN was not intended for identity verification because they can be “obtained fraudulently” and be “used by more than one person”. She added, that it also can’t be verified by the Cabinet’s 40-year-old automated vehicle information system (AVIS).

After multiple requests, KYTC did not specifically answer the question of when the change happened and what KRS statute is associated by the time this story was published. They only said it was “longstanding” and in KRS 186.

We could not locate the policy, and neither could the Non-profit poverty law advocacy center, Kentucky Equal Justice Center.

“This is very concerning. So I'm learning about it myself and try to figure out what. Where's this is coming from,” said Outreach Coordinator Miranda Brown.

When we looked deeper, we learned KYTC started the policy of not accepting ITIN in July 2011, telling the Herald-Leader: that it was because of a request made by the FBI and Kentucky State Police.

However, just months later, in November 2011, they reversed their position again to allow ITIN numbers.

Blevins said the policy was discussed again during a meeting in 2019, and clerks have argued this topic with KYTC over the years several times.

Brown says the list of acceptable documents is narrow and missing other documents an immigrant might have. Brown also worries about unintentional consequences that could come up.

“It will affect people who want to purchase a vehicle who may not be the driver. It will affect people who are in a collision with somebody who may have a registered vehicle,” said Brown. “It'll affect police who are trying to enforce the law and who do want people that have registered vehicles and insurance on those vehicles to make their job easier.”

While drivers with ITINs could already be ticketed for driving without a license, advocates fear that driving without registration and proper title will make the situation more dangerous.

We asked Lexington Police to find out how they plan to enforce the change.

"Officers can issue a citation for failure to transfer the title of vehicle ownership, but it is not something they specifically look for when looking at vehicles. For example, if an individual is pulled over for expired registration and discovers that their vehicle title has not been transferred, they can issue a citation."

Lexington Police Department