11/22/16 UPDATE for Louisiana Hardship License: Per recent news reports, the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles plans to reverse it's "no cash" policy on most transactions effective as soon as December 1st. Once effective, cash can again be used for driver's licenses, vehicle registrations, and titles but NOT for reinstatement fees. As the DMV works through this change, we recommend bringing check/money order until it's clear as to whether this Hardship License constitutes a "reinstatement" or not.
We did a piece this past summer lamenting Louisiana’s hardline policy allowing the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) to suspend the driver’s licenses of taxpayers who have unpaid tax bills. We specifically pointed out the Legislature’s failure to provide for a type of “hardship” license which would allow taxpayers to continue working and contributing to the state’s economy while they remedy their income tax woes.
It appears that someone was listening! Effective August 1, 2016, the Legislature amended La. R.S. 32:414(R)(3) to allow the Office of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue economic hardship licenses to applicants whose licenses have been suspended or not renewed because of unpaid income taxes. This economic hardship driver’s license is valid for one year or until the individual pays or makes arrangements to pay the overdue income taxes, whichever occurs first. See 2016 Act 607 and LDR Policy Services Division Revenue Information Bulletin No. 16-041.
We have been working with several clients over the past several weeks to figure out the mechanics for obtaining the hardship license. Here are a few tips we have put together based on our work so far:
- Visit the local DMV, not LDR. The statute authorizes the DMV to issue the hardship license – not LDR. Requests may be made at any DMV office. You do not have to travel to Baton Rouge; any local office is fine.
- Bring Money. A reinstatement fee is required. We have contradictory information from clients on the amount of the fee for the hardship license. Based on our experience, it ranges anywhere from $50.00 to $80.00. We are investigating the inconsistencies with LDR, but do not have clear answers yet. (We suspect that they could result from transaction fees associated with the different payment methods, discussed below or from expired status versus suspended status.)
- No Cash! Effective November 1, 2016, the DMV does not accept cash. For this type of service, the DMV will accept debit cards, credit cards, money orders and cashier’s checks. There may be transaction fees associated with some of these payment methods.
- Proof of Insurance is Required. Proof of current liability insurance is required.
- Be Prepared to Prove it Exists. Recently, we have had clients tell us they have gone to the DMV and after several hours of waiting were told by DMV employees that they are unaware of this type of hardship license. As a result, we suggest that you bring a copy of LDR Policy Services Division Revenue Information Bulletin No. 16-041 which can be found at www.rev.state.la.us.com.
- Remember it’s a “Hardship” License. The hardship license only allows for to travel to and from work and on necessary errands. We suggest refraining from driving for other reasons as it may jeopardize the validity of the license. [See DMV Policy & Procedure: Hardship License Requirements Section II: Driver’s License Laws Number 30, which provides “the license allows the applicant to drive during the period of suspension to earn a livelihood or to maintain the necessities of life.”]
- It does not apply to CDLs. The provision only applies to personal driver’s licenses; it does not apply to CDLs.
- Income Taxes Only. The hardship licenses is only available to taxpayers with overdue income taxes. It is not available to individuals who owe other types of taxes.
- No Devices Required. There are no ignition interlock or other monitoring devices required.
As a final point, keep in mind that this hardship license is only going to be valid for one year. During that time, we suggest that the taxpayer use the opportunity to achieve long term solutions for resolving the tax issues. Since LDR’s resolution options are very limited, these will most likely include making payments toward the overdue tax bill to get it paid over the 12 months and/or getting into a monthly payment plan with LDR for any left-over balance.