# News Trying to use less gas? There's a tax for that.

1. Aug 6, 2013

### Borg

Sooo, I got my car tax bill from the state of Virginia Monday. The state legislature recently changed the tax code to tax all hybrid cars an additional $64 because they "don't use enough gas" that the state can tax. Similar bills are pending in other states as well. OK, they need more revenue. While I understand in principle what they're trying to accomplish, hybrid owners now pay more than any other vehicle type (assuming a normal average of 12,000 miles per year). To make things even dumber, the state also dropped the previous gas tax from 17.5 cents to 11.5 cents per gallon so that many non-hybrid cars now pay less than what the hybids were paying previously. A hybrid owner using 240 gallons of gas in a year, now pays more in taxes than a 15 MPG truck that uses 800 gallons. <End rant> #### Attached Files: • ###### HybridTaxComparison.JPG File size: 30.7 KB Views: 165 2. Aug 6, 2013 ### phyzguy Whoa, this is crazy! The last thing we want to do is encourage fossil fuel consumption. Sounds like it's time to move out of Virginia! 3. Aug 6, 2013 ### edward The tax supposedly goes for road maintenance. They need to charge the heavier vehicles more. http://www.vabike.org/vehicle-weight-and-road-damage/ Since they can't get that kind of money out of the trucking industry they take it from the little guy. 4. Aug 6, 2013 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor The only problem I see with the tax is that it is one size fits all: a Prius owner is penalized while a Volt owner makes out. 5. Aug 6, 2013 ### phinds You are expecting logic/reason/sanity from a legislative body? Really? 6. Aug 6, 2013 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor They do charge heavier vehicles more. You claim trucks don't pay enough, but you didn't say how much they pay! 7. Aug 6, 2013 ### Greg Bernhardt ### Staff: Admin Reminds be how my electric company raises rates when they don't make enough money when people conserve electricity. 8. Aug 6, 2013 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor Er, well I'm not sure that's true, but electric companies are the only ones I know of who are required to pay their customers to use less of their product! 9. Aug 6, 2013 ### Borg No. Just ranting. Some legislators have said that they will try to repeal it but, I'm not holding my breath. I think that all of the tax bills for the year go out at the same time so I don't think that I'm the only one who will notice this week. Maybe if enough people get upset, they'll change their minds. I submitted a suggestion for a news story to a local TV station. I would love to see that get run. Last edited: Aug 6, 2013 10. Aug 6, 2013 ### SteamKing Staff Emeritus If you think this is bad, wait until the government starts taxing you by the miles you drive. 11. Aug 6, 2013 ### edward And you didn't say how much more heavier trucks pay?? Pay for what? registration fees or fuel tax? As far as fuel tax heavy trucks pay the same per gallon as a Volkswagen TDI. And you apparently ignored this quote from the link I provided. http://www.vabike.org/vehicle-weight-and-road-damage/ 12. Aug 6, 2013 ### Borg I was just referring to personal vehicles. Yes, 18 wheelers tear up the road significantly and are taxed higher for it. 13. Aug 6, 2013 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor 1. Your claim, your responsibility, and the flaw is pretty obvious, so if you want to claim they aren't taxed enough or equally to cars, you need to prove it: 2. Trucks get lower fuel economy than a VW TDI. How much, I don't know, but clearly they use more fuel and therefore get taxed more for each mile: your road damage number is per mile, not per gallon or dollar. 3. Trucks pay higher tolls than cars do, based on weight. I didn't ignore it, that's the number you need to normalize against cost. Stated succinctly, what I want to know (what you need to prove) is what that number drops to when corrected for how much more trucks pay than cars. For example, if a truck pays 100x what a car pays, then the damage is 9.6x what a car does per$ paid in road tax. Then we can discuss whether that number (whatever it is) is reasonable.

Last edited: Aug 6, 2013
14. Aug 6, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Right, so like I said, the issue is basically just a simplistic approach a complicated question. You happened - by dumb luck - to get the short end of the stick on that simplistic approach. But while I get the bellyaching, trying to set that aside and find a sensible approach to the problem will reveal just how inherently unsolvable it is:

We could base the personal vehicle tax rates on vehicle weight and miles driven, requiring yearly inspections and tax paid at the time of the inspection. That would eliminate this issue and to me would be "fair". But not very many people, it would seem, share my concept of "fair":

We've had a number of threads here where people have, for example, argued that the rich should pay the lions share of road taxes because even when a non-rich person is driving, the rich get most of the benefit of that driving. Not sure how we would calculate that. Eliminate road taxes and pay for roads just with income taxes maybe?

Maybe road maintenance isn't the only thing at stake with road taxes. Maybe the government wants to tax for the purpose of behavioral modification. Then, taxing hybrid owners less for the same amount of driving would make sense.

These alternatives are based on different opinions on the purpose and nature of both taxation in particular and government in general. They are not reconcilable.

15. Aug 6, 2013

### lisab

Staff Emeritus
That's actually very reasonable, IMO - let the citizens who use it most pay more for it. But there is no good way to implement a per-mile tax. The best they can do is a gas tax, but they aren't taxing fuel directly - they're taxing road use indirectly.

16. Aug 6, 2013

### OmCheeto

I agree.

btw, what's the ratio of hybrids to non-hybrids, at the moment?

It's going on everywhere. We're all stuck here on "the Earth". Moving out of Virginia is the least of anyone's problem, IMHO.

17. Aug 6, 2013

### Simon Bridge

Taxes are, by nature, a pretty blunt instrument.

In NZ that has applied to personal diesel vehicles but only by accident.
The main trouble, besides general unpopularity meaning that the govt who impliments it gets voted out next election (and elections are every 3 years here), is just the number of people that would involve collecting the tax from.

It is getting more feasable as technology improves though - we could put an automatic toll booth on every corner and the registered car owner gets a road-use bill in the mail. In future, vehicles may be required to upload their mileage, and whatever, to a central database after each trip. (There was an SF show recently in which "carbon credits" - ones quota of emmissions - had replaced the dollar as currency.)

Note: if the road-user tax is at the pump, then don't hybrid owners already pay less of the tax in proportion to the miles they drive on electricity alone.
The behaviour modification role of tax is well to be noted - in NZ part of the pump tax is an emmissions tax.

But everyone who is reasonable agrees with me!

18. Aug 6, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Agreed, though for states like PA where you have an annual inspection, it could be done without too much trouble. Not all states have inspections though, and that doesn't differentiate between state and federal driving.

19. Aug 6, 2013

### edward

I don't need to prove anything. The fuel tax is really the topic here. That is where the states get the money to build and repair roads. With the fuel tax rate for state purposes being determined by the individual states, what you want to discuss is futile.

It is common knowledge that heavy trucks do more damage to the roads than they pay for in fuel taxes.

Any quantification (what you want me to do) would change the next time any one of the states changed the fuel tax rate as was mentioned in the OP. I see you used the term inherently unsolvable.

20. Aug 6, 2013

### SteamKing

Staff Emeritus
And of course, you will keep a detailed log of the miles you drive and be able to show it on demand to any and all who wish to see it. Or perhaps you wouldn't mind if your friendly govt. agency installed a device in your car which kept detailed records of your movements in the vehicle, so you won't lose any mileage logs or even have to worry about keeping them in the first place.

And to think, people once got bent out of shape because the NSA or the FBI, or the IRS, or even the local cop shop might be tracking them!

21. Aug 7, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

I know the fuel tax is the topic: you didn't make any attempt to quantify what a truck pays vs what a car pays when saying a truck doesn't pay enough. You claimed that trucks don't pay enough fuel tax, so you need to cite how much fuel tax trucks pay in order to show that!

Instead, you said trucks don't pay enough fuel tax, then showed that trucks do more damage to roads than cars. They are separate issues, but can be merged -- if you have data for both.
It isn't common knowledge to me, so tell me how much and cite your source. Moreover, even if we were to agree that it was more, I would still want to know how much. You claimed 9600x, for half of the equation. So complete the analysis and show how much it really is.
Yes, and it would be different from state to state. So pick a state and start at now and show the magnitude of the discrepancy you are claiming. You came about the 9600x very easily. I'm not going to let you off the hook unless you finish the calculation or retract the claim.

Or, I'll let you out of this if you say you agree that the discrepancy is much, much less than 9600x.

22. Aug 7, 2013

### Borg

No problem here with that. As I've stated in the past, I'm not against paying my fair share of taxes.
I'm not sure what to make of the law. If they just added the hybrid fee, that would be more reasonable in terms of overall fairness because the hybrid taxes would be closer to the median for all vehicles. What I don't get is then lowering the tax at the pump and changing the equation such that hybrids are now the highest taxed vehicles w.r.t. a 12,000 mile average. That really comes across as trying to punish hybrid owners even though I will pay less with the decrease in the pump tax. Hard to say if that was intentional or just normal government stupidity.

I really feel sorry for people who own Ford Escape hybrid trucks. They only get about 30 MPG so they're really on the short end of it unless there's a truck waiver in the law that I haven't read about.

BTW, let's not lose sight of the fact that I still pay far less for gas than the owner of a truck. At $3.50/gal the 15MPG truck spends about$2800 to go 12,000 miles while a 50 MPG Prius spends around $850. Maybe the government thinks that extra two grand is burning a hole in my pocket. Last edited: Aug 7, 2013 23. Aug 7, 2013 ### AlephZero A common criterion (based on experimental data) for road damage from each axle of a vehicle is the fourth power of axle weight. There is no problem with factors of 9600 or more in total damage between a large truck and a car. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_axle_weight_rating will get you started for references. 24. Aug 7, 2013 ### OmCheeto If we didn't import$300,000,000,000[1] worth of crude oil a year, it would be reasonable.
If everyone were driving plug in hybrid vehicles, it would be reasonable.

Now those $170 billion would be recycled here, in the US. Those$300 billion are currently, not.

Disincentivizing fuel savings is one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard of in my entire life.

[1] 7,730,000 barrels a day * $106 per barrel * 365.25 days in a year =$300,000,000,000