Utah vehicle owners wouldn't have to write two checks when they renew their vehicle registration if the Legislature approves a recommendation by the legislative auditor general's office.

An audit says Utah's motor vehicle system has not provided efficient customer service because of the involvement of both county and state personnel. Utah is the only Western state that does not permit vehicle owners to make a single payment covering registration fees and vehicle taxes or fees.Utahns now must pay property taxes to a county employee and must then pay vehicle registration fees to a state employee. The audit recommends that either group could collect the revenue for the other and then transfer the funds.

"Not only would this be a savings to the government, but it would also be a savings in terms of time and convenience for us who have to go through the process," said Doug West, audit manager in the auditor general's office.

The audit also recommends the state replace value-based taxation of vehicles with a fee - or a tax rate that is the same in every county. A person in Brigham City, for example, pays much less in vehicle tax than a Salt Lake resident who owns the same car, said Richard Coleman, audit supervisor.

The rate in each of the 872 local taxing districts in the state depends on levies by each taxing authority in the district. The tax rate is multiplied by the vehicle value to determine the taxes due.

The audit also said too many errors are made in assigning book values to cars and trucks and suggests the state issue guidelines. Various counties use different methods that cause a fluctuation in fees and taxes. Vehicles are valued at wholesale rates in some districts, and retail rates are used in others. Depreciation schedules should also be adjusted to more accurately reflect declines in market value, the audit suggests.

"The problem is, we're dealing with a system that goes back to when we first started regulating automobiles," West said. "It's going to take a lengthy process to work it all out."

The audit also included a required sunset review of the state Motor Vehicle Division and recommends the legislature reauthorize the division because of the important public purpose it fulfills.