Friday, January 2, 2009

Angry over Gas Tax Reporting

In today's FLS is an ap story about the gas tax. This article states the need to raise the gas tax because people drive less and drive more efficient! WTF! That is NOT the issue. The tax is fixed per gallon, so the revenue NEVER changes even as construction and maint costs have risen. Someone in the article states that the $105B needed in 2007 will grow to $134B by 2017. Duh, that's called inflation! They make like this shortfall is due to less gas being sold.

Yeah, fix the gas tax! Stop being idiots about it and make it a percent of sale! It is the closest gauge to the number of miles driven, which actually equates to maint requirements.

I also take issue with the end of the story where someone envisions a gps based logging system to track miles. There is no way to prevent privacy intrusion without also creating an easily hackable system. Let's see, spend billions on gps'ing every car vs fixing the existing gas tax that encourages buying more efficient vehicles? Its a no brainer.


kcw said...

How would you adjust the gas % based on vehicle type? Hybrids, all electric...they still use the roads. It seems a penalization of those who use less efficient vehicles vice a tax meant to cover cost of transportation projects and maintenance. While maybe you should penalize less efficient vehicle you should call it that rather than hide that fact within a 'gas tax for transportation projects'.

While I believe hybrids/electric vehicles will not go as mainstream as many others think for a good while a % of gas tax will not be proportional to miles of road used. I'd rather eliminate the gas tax and tax miles driven as reported during state safety inspections. There could be an impact, however, for the travel states who are used merely for their interstates and have low population (I'm looking at you, american midwest states. Combat that with the ability to write-off these at-the-pump taxes within state income taxes.

However, treat commercial trucking as a separate entity and provide at-the-pump taxes.


I agree with the GPS vehicle notion. I think this was being tested in Washington state like two years ago. Waste of time. However this hacking will only occur with a small percentage of owners while the general public will operate without noticing. My larger issue is the big brother type monitoring potential.

Bryan said...

KCW - counterpoint - There has been a movement afloat to make state inspections only every 2 years. What's the purpose of having state inspections on vehicles less than say ten years old? Most mechanics hate having to do inspections, unless you count the unscrupulous ones that like use it as an upsell opportunity. Nor do the annual inspection affect any out-of-state drivers, which can account for a measurable amount of state gas sales. On the national level, keep in mind that not all states require inspections.

I will agree with something you said, it shouldn't be a "tax for transportation projects", it should be called "tax incentive for more economic transportation". Doesn't have the same ring. Raising the gas tax could do several things, it could move people to public transportation, it could also encourage a move to alternative fuel vehicles. Both of which are BETTER for the environment, thereby reducing future environmental expenses (think bigger picture than just transport). So I don't see anything wrong with using a tax to do this. It's similar to using the cigarette tax for health care. If the tax reduced smoking, you'd collect less in tax revenue, and you then need to find another revenue source for health care. BUT in the mean time, you've reduced a bad habit, accomplishing an interim goal.

Imagine this, in 30yrs, the average vehicle gets 40mpg. The gas companies aren't going to stop selling gas, along with inflation, gas prices will rise accordingly. A % gas tax then also goes up. The gas companies will continue making the same profits, but sell less product. Alternatively, you might now also tax multiple fuels, say compressed natural gas, hydrogen, bio-diesel. More revenue sources for your gas tax. Sure you might still miss the all-electric, but then most of those are still going to be short commuters, not family vacation vehicles. And if they do take over, it's similar to an electric incentive "skip paying gas taxes, buy an all-electric". At that point we'll need to change the way we pay for transportation.

In 10-20 yrs, I expect it's going to be easier to tax per mile with existing in car technologies. Several new cars toying with black box technology for crash scene reconstruction. Privacy advocates are fearful I'm sure. I do hate the idea of big brother dialing my car to find out how much I drive.

Personally, I find it easier to bear a point sale tax, than any aggregated, single year tax. It's just easier to pay it a few cents at a time instead of writing one check to uncle sam at the end of the year.

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