Effective immediately, drivers can begin paying their vehicle license fees at the new, lower rate established on Monday, despite what their registration bills say.
The rate was dropped from 2% of a car's value to .67% by an executive order from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, saving the average driver $158 a year.
While bills sent out by the Department of Motor Vehicles will reflect the higher rate through Dec. 19, as state computers are reconfigured, consumers can pay the lower tax if they do their own math.
Department spokesman Bill Branch said people with bills reflecting the higher rate should just send in one third of the vehicle license fee amount due. He cautioned, however, that any other fees on their bills must be paid in full. Beginning Friday, a special calculator will be available online at www.dmv.ca.gov to assist the public.
Branch said drivers who receive bills at the higher rate and wish to recalculate the amount they owe must send their payments in by mail if the money is due before Dec. 19. While the computers at the DMV are being reprogrammed, drivers who pay online or at field offices will still be charged the higher rate; the difference will be refunded later.
Drivers who have paid their bills at the higher rate, in effect only since Oct. 1, will be mailed refunds sometime in early 2004.
Car dealers, meanwhile, have been authorized to begin billing the car tax at the lower rate.