God’s Mercy at the DMV

I am not really one for sharing personal stories. However, I had a particularly encouraging experience of God’s mercy yesterday that involved–of all things!–the DMV and paying taxes. Based on the bizarre and unexpected nature of my experience, I figured you might enjoy hearing about it.

When we first moved to Newberry, SC, more than seven years ago, it took four separate trips to the DMV before I finally emerged with a new SC plate for our vehicle. Part of that odyssey involved a trip to the County Treasurer’s office where I had to fork over $1000+ in property taxes for one vehicle (a vehicle we were leasing and didn’t even own). I’ve been told we have the highest property taxes in the state. I don’t doubt it.

I was appalled. Frustrated. Resigned. When it comes to taxes, what can you do? Hold your nose, swallow the pill, and get on with your life.

Every year since, we’ve had to pay a hefty sum to renew our tag.

This December we bought a Ford Transit from my father-in-law who owns a dealership in PA (I know, I know. Let the homeschool family jokes begin). Because we were purchasing the vehicle across state lines, the sales tax on the vehicle was deferred, and we were responsible to pay it in South Carolina. We had a 60 day temp tag, and as you can imagine, I waited until the last possible moment to go into the DMV and render unto Caesar.

So, if you are keeping tabs, in order to secure our title and tag, that meant this time around we owed sales tax IN ADDITION TO the property tax.

Being a math guy, I can add. I looked up the auto sales tax rate in SC, and it’s 5%. Gulp. Based on property taxes we’d paid in the past, and 5% of the sale of the vehicle, I estimated we would owe $3000+ by the end of it.

My mind started to spin whenever I though of it. My wife is due with our 6th child next month, and hospital bills are about to flood our mailbox. My kids’ school pre-registration fees and tuition for the fall are coming soon.

The numbers made me sick. And I started to pray.

I don’t really know for what. Mercy. Dear God, have mercy. I don’t know from where. I don’t know how. But mercy.

God had me in a submission hold, and I was crying “Uncle!”

Yesterday was the fateful day. I headed to the County Treasurer’s office for the first of two painful stops. All the way, I was praying, pleading, asking the Lord to be gentle.

I stepped up to the auditor’s counter, handed over every piece of paperwork from the dealership (because who knows what they might ask for), and waited.

And waited.

And after what seemed like an eternity, the auditor printed a receipt and said, “You owe $643.00. They will process your payment at the treasurer’s counter across the hall.”

Mercy. Sheer mercy. Expecting to pay well over a grand in property tax, I’m sure I was the happiest taxpayer the county treasurer’s office saw all day.

Then I headed across town to do penance at the DMV. Dear God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

The line was short. As I had fully anticipated, there was a piece of paperwork that had to be filled out and signed by my wife before I could proceed any further, so attempt #1 was over before it began. I headed back out the door.

I got home, filled out the car title application, got Mindy’s signature, and headed back for round 2.

The suspense was killing me. And I’m pleading for mercy all the way.

I return to the same DMV officer, who processes my paperwork, and tells me there will be a $10 late fee for allowing our temp tag go a day past its expiration. I say, no problem.

Her fingernails ratatap on the keyboard as I await my fate.

“Would you like a normal tag?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Just tell me the damage! Dear God, help me!

“With the late fee, sales tax, and tag fee…that will be $565.00.”

Tears began to well up in my eyes. I asked her to explain how sales tax works in SC.

“Well, it’s 5% up until $500. But there is a $500 cap.”

I couldn’t believe it.

I smiled as I handed her the check. “Miss Rosetta, I was praying the whole way over here that God would have mercy on me. I was fully expecting to pay a whole heck of a lot more than this. God has been merciful to me through you. Thank-you.”

She smiled.

And I went home rejoicing. Rejoicing after paying taxes and visiting the DMV. Twice.

What a weird, merciful God we serve.

Published by Chad Ashby

Pastor at College Street Baptist Church Newberry, SC

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