Free Markets, Free People

VMT

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?

~McQ

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