Free Markets, Free People

Old taxes never go away, they just reinvent themselves in a more intrusive way

With the debt and deficit problems our government has managed to accumulate, they’re always looking for new and more inventive ways to get in your wallet.  And it seems, technology may be the most productive way to do so.

You see, we’ve been paying taxes at the gas pump that pay for “transportation improvement projects”.  But there is a problem.  Government mandates that have raised gas mileage standards, hybrids and the possibility of masses of electric cars has suddenly given the tax takers the willies.  That may mean much less revenue originating at the gas pump.

What’s a looter to do?  Well turn to a different way of collecting that tax – tax total vehicle miles traveled (VMT).  Up to now that’s been problematic says the CBO.  But fear not, there’s a solution:

"In the past, the efficiency costs of implementing a system of VMT charges — particularly the costs of users’ time for slowing and queuing at tollbooths — would clearly have outweighed the potential benefits from more efficient use of highway capacity," CBO wrote. "Now, electronic metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option."

And what government would do is mandate metering equipment be installed on all new cars and trucks:

"Having the devices installed as original equipment under a mandate to vehicle manufacturers would be relatively inexpensive but could lead to a long transition; requiring vehicles to be retrofitted with the devices could be faster but much more costly, and the equipment could be more susceptible to tampering than factory-installed equipment might be," CBO said.

So how would it be collected?

The report added that VMT taxes could be tracked and even collected at filling stations. "If VMT taxes were collected at the pump, each time fuel was purchased, information would be sent from a device in the vehicle to a device at the filling station," it said.

CBO also suggested different VMT tax rates might be assessed to different vehicles because heavier vehicles do more road damage, and rates might change depending on whether miles are driven at peak use times or during less congested hours.

Of course, the obvious solution is to just collect at the pump for others at an ‘average’ rate.

What about electric cars?

Yeah, haven’t figured that one out yet, have they?

CBO did acknowledge that privacy concerns may be a hurdle to implementing a VMT tax because electronic tracking of miles driven might provide too much personal information to the government. However, CBO noted that some have proposed restricting the information that would be transmitted to the government.

Well I feel better already. 

Technology is a wonderful thing.  It has given us a way of life and benefits that previous generations most likely couldn’t even imagine.  But there’s a downside to it too.  Especially when government gets its hands on it and uses it as a tool to intrude into your privacy.  Another mandate designed to help government better keep track of  your travels and ensure you pay your “fair share”?  Yeah, no echoes of Big Brother in that at all, huh?



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26 Responses to Old taxes never go away, they just reinvent themselves in a more intrusive way

  • These folks are already on the wrong side of the Phillips curve, so let’s try something almost forgotten in DC … start with spending cuts, then move on to .. more spending cuts.

  • If memory serves, truckers already have a somewhat similar device. Also, I seem to remember that a man in Florida was convicted of vehicular manslaughter because the computer sensor in his new car indicated that the auto was traveling at two or three times the speed limit.
    I’ll have to check PM to make sure. One thing is sure, the technology is there and in place.

    • When last I was involved in trucking, no.  You pay tax at the pump.  There used to be a system…a very cumbersome system…of apportioning the taxes each vehicle paid to the states in which it operated.  That has been simplified to a fair degree.

  • Well, they could just raise the gasoline & diesel taxes. Nah, too simple and not enough technology involved.

    • Well, let’s play a little brain-storming game.  Suppose that, over say a certain pretty low mileage number, you could be charged a MUCH higher tax rate for each mile you drive.
      That cannot be accomplished with a simple fuel tax.  But with this technology, it would be a snap.
      But our benevolent overlords would NEVER dream of any such thing.  (Ahhh….Dr. Chu…)

      • Or, ANOTHER little wrinkle.
        You could be changed a much higher tax rate based on the weight of your vehicle (as are trucks).  But this could be collected by your public servants at that IRS with every mile you drive…via the magic of your Telescreen…er, on-board computers.

  • [Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent] Conrad [d-ND] said in response that federal funds are tight, and in asking for recommendations on how to raise that money, he noted the possibility of a VMT tax as a way to solve the problem of collecting less in taxes as people move to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    It struck me when I read this that it is a perfect example of the problem of having career legislators: they eventually identify more with the government where they are employed than the people who elect them.  The “problem” Conrad is trying to solve is how his “boss” (i.e. Uncle Sugar) can get more money.  His natural inclination?  Raid the wallets of the peons, including those who (foolishly) elected him.

    A lot of people need to start taking a hard look at their legislators and ask, “Just who the hell do you think you work for, bub???”

  • Auto insurance companies (Progressive mostly) have pilot or new programs like this to track mileage for better rates. Not really sure if I like the idea or not.
    I am puzzled about the privacy comment. I’m always reading from conservatives that there is no right to privacy in the Constitution. Okay. So then I find it a bit disingenuous to start whining about the gov’t intruding on privacy. It looks like you’re trying to have it both ways.

    • Uh … I’m not a conservative.

      • Really? A cursive read of your posts from the past few years, as well as the numerous cites of your writings at other sites, and a person could reasonably conclude otherwise. One problem the libertarian movement has is conservatives recruiting under a false flag by claiming they are “libertarians”. Well, they may be “libertarians” in an economic sense (Keep your hands of my money! There’s a privacy right that protects people from finding out how I spend my money!) but certainly not in a social sense, with the backing of politicians who are openly hostile to certain types of personal privacy rights, etc.

    • I am a conservative, and a constitutionist.  There certainly is no explicit right to privacy in the Constitution, as even you could tell by a quick read.
      I do think there is an implicit privacy doctrine one can see in the Constitution, but it does not BEGIN to go all the places courts have tried to make it stretch.
      I don’t think you’ll find many “whiners” here.  Ass-kickers, yes.

    • Nothing disingenuous about it. Just because there is no mention of a privacy right in the constitution does not mean the government has a right to ignore it. The constitution limits government rights, not individual rights. That is why we have amendments 9 & 10. That is also one of the reasons there was an argument about adopting the Bill of Rights.

    • I’m always reading from conservatives that there is no right to privacy in the Constitution.

      Let me guess: you’re reading from the anti-abortion crowd.
      Expand your reading profile. Then read the 4th. and 9th amendments.
      The understand that it is this hypocrisy on the right (rank amateurs compared to the left) that drives many libertarians and consistent conservatives out of the conservative/Republican sphere.

      • Sharp, love you man, but there is nothing hypocritical about opposition to Roe v. Wade.  OR the other VAST expansions of “rights” fashioned by courts under the rubric of “privacy”.

      • Yet when the rubber meets the road the libertarians and consistent conservatives (I like that term!) will back someone who doesn’t believe in privacy rights as in staying out of peoples’ bedrooms, but only in privacy rights when it comes to how a persons’ money is spent. That is troubling. If you’re for small gov’t, that means any and all gov’t, not just because you don’t like gays, or people having abortions, etc.

  • “Now, electronic metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option.”

    What a marvelous modern age we live in…
    What this will mean, of course, is that used cars WILL be at a greater premium.
    There is no tax a creative populace cannot fiddle.

  • “When a driver presses the Red OnStar Emergency button or Blue OnStar button, current vehicle data and the user’s GPS location are immediately gathered. This information is then sent to OnStar. OnStar Emergency calls are routed to the OnStar Center with highest priority.”
    ‘OnStar Corporation is a subsidiary of General Motors’
    Coincidence? Hmmmmm.

    • Big difference is I can refuse the service and turn it off.

      • My point is, the technology is already available and in use. It is not inconceivable that someone would want to make it mandatory, purely as a safety feature like airbags, seatbelts, etc. Then, why not just add one tiny little feature to collect and report all the information the government needs. Event Data Recorders (EDRs) are already installed on many cars to collect information on acceleration, braking, etc. for use in accident investigation. You can’t turn them off.

        A relevant NHTSA document, a “Notice of proposed rulemaking”;–June1/index.html#tbl

  • The solution (to funding road maintenance, which is a Real Thing) is, sadly, toll roads.
    But drivers (voters) hate them.

    • Actually, they do not.  Look at the Indiana model for more.

    • Here’s another thought: put off road projects until they can be paid for.  Take the money that’s wasted on bicycle trails and light rail and spend it on roads and bridges that we actually have (how much money was wasted on that tunnel in NJ, or is being wasted on the rail line between Tampa and Orlando?).  IF the roads and bridges start to deteriorate, THEN talk about raising taxes SPECIFICALLY to fund the needed repairs and improvements. 

      I regularly drive on the major interstates running through No. Carolina, which has one of the highest gas tax rates in the country because “we’ve got soooo many roads that we’ve just GOT to maintain”.  The roads are often in lousy condition despite these high taxes.  The roads are at least as good – if not better – in So. Carolina, which has much lower gas taxes.

      Conclusion: Raleigh is wasting our money.  Surprise, surprise.

      For the amount of money that Uncle Sugar and the various states take in in gas taxes and other “transportation” taxes, we should have flippin’ gold-plated roads.  Sadly, I think that much of that money is wasted and / or gets spent on “non-transporation” projects.

      • Happily, the governor of Florida turned down the Federal money for the high-speed rail to bankruptcy.
        The Kulifornia folks…not so smart.
        Amazing stupidity at work here, imposing an East German central industrial plan on Americans!!!
        Seems I’ve read somewhere that highway funds…like a couple of other TRUSTS I could name…are put into general revenues for an IOU.  Could be wrong…

  • It’s a good thing government beaurocrats are so stupid, otherwise they’d know they could tax us now without requiring new technology.  Whenever you take your car to get an annual inspection sticker, they write down the mileage.  All that would have to happen is for each state’s DMV to share the data with it’s respective Department of Revenue.

    4-6 weeks later, you’d recieve a bill in the mail for mileage driven.