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Gas tax
Old 11-01-2021, 04:48 PM   #1
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Gas tax

I have not seen this topic discussed on E-R since about 2008 so hopefully it is fair game. It was inspired by the carbon tax question but I did not want to usurp that thread.

What should we do about the gas tax given the proliferation of electric vehicles? I don't like taxes any more than the next person but I think gas taxes are probably the best structured. Road users pay taxes to use the roads and to a large extent what they pay is proportional to how many miles hey drive, vehicle weight, and hence damage they cause. Then the money is used substantially for road repairs.

But with EVs paying no taxes to use the roads it seems unfair. I've heard proposals at the state level to use odometer readings on EVs to calulate a tax annualy when registering. I don't think that is a good technical solution because most of the gas tax is federal, it does not solve the bulk of the problem because there is no federal vehicle registration.

So what do we do?
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Old 11-01-2021, 04:56 PM   #2
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As far as your numbers are concerned,
Federal tax is 18.4c per gal
Washington State (where I live) is 49.4c per gal

the lowest state per gal tax
Alaska at 14.98c cents per gallon,
Missouri 17.42c
Mississippi 18.79c

I don't know what these numbers mean other than most of the gas tax does go to the individ states
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Old 11-01-2021, 05:24 PM   #3
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Gas taxes used to be a pretty close approximation to vehicle weight and distance traveled.
It has become less and less so and is being broken with EVs.

Gas taxes, for road repair need to be scrapped for all vehicles.
In their place, a new tax based on vehicle weight and miles driven need to take it's place.

Having one tax for gassers, another for BEVs, another for PHEVs, another for HEVs and yet another for Fuel Cell cars just gets ridiculous.

One set of rules for all vehicle types.
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Old 11-01-2021, 05:30 PM   #4
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Gas taxes used to be a pretty close approximation to vehicle weight and distance traveled.
It has become less and less so and is being broken with EVs.

Gas taxes, for road repair need to be scrapped for all vehicles.
In their place, a new tax based on vehicle weight and miles driven need to take it's place.

Having one tax for gassers, another for BEVs, another for PHEVs, another for HEVs and yet another for Fuel Cell cars just gets ridiculous.

One set of rules for all vehicle types.
I agree but it can sill get complicated. I live in Hawaii. Only a tiny fraction of Hawaii vehicles ever ouch a road on the mainland. So why should I have to pay to fix roads in Texas and Vermont for example?

But more directly to the point, if a state switched to a tax based on vehicle weight and miles driven, which makes sense to me, it's not clear how the feds would get their share, esspecially if every stste does it differently.
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Old 11-01-2021, 06:58 PM   #5
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Biggest problem with gas tax is not electric vehicles (2 pct of vehicles maybe?). It is politicians raiding the highway fund for non-highway spending

That's an even tougher problem.
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Old 11-01-2021, 07:29 PM   #6
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Biggest problem with gas tax is not electric vehicles (2 pct of vehicles maybe?). It is politicians raiding the highway fund for non-highway spending

That's an even tougher problem.
But we might be able to solve the EV issue. We'll never be able solve the problem of politicians!
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Old 11-01-2021, 07:33 PM   #7
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But we might be able to solve the EV issue. We'll never be able solve the problem of politicians!
Yeah, they we even present in the Roman Empire and look how that ended up!
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Old 11-01-2021, 07:55 PM   #8
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The government is going to get their taxes one way or another.

Only question is how.
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Old 11-01-2021, 08:36 PM   #9
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Some conspiracy types (outside this thread) get all worked up over the govt knowing how many miles they drove that year. I think that's silly. In IL, you need to get an emissions check every two years, and your mileage is reported on the form. No big deal, IMO. A simple reporting system could be set up.

While mileage seems a fair basis, now throw in vehicle weight, and it gets messy. I'd imagine the damage from the typical passenger car is negligible compared to the heaviest trucks. So the trucks would pay nearly all the tax.

Though that may be just fine. Those truckers need to pass the cost onto whoever uses their services, and that seems appropriate. If you are house-bound and don't even own a car, you are still availing yourself of products that get to you by truck. Your groceries, clothes, furniture - practically everything had to come on a truck on its way to you (or a truck carries it away). So you should pay (indirectly) for keeping those roads maintained. If they weren't maintained, you couldn't get your stuff. So pay.

I think that's logical (or correct me if I messed up), but logic doesn't seem to get very far in cases like this.

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Old 11-01-2021, 08:56 PM   #10
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... But more directly to the point, if a state switched to a tax based on vehicle weight and miles driven, which makes sense to me, it's not clear how the feds would get their share, esspecially if every stste does it differently.
The state could collect both the federal and state tax based on vehicle weight and miles drive when the registration is renewed and then remit the federal part to the feds.

Another problem that I see is collecting. With gas taxes the government collects a little at a time which makes it more affordable... but with a mileage/weight approach I assume that collection will be once a year... will those who live paycheck to paycheck be able to come up with the cash to pay it if a high percentage of the population can't come up with $400 for an emergency?
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Old 11-01-2021, 08:57 PM   #11
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Yeah, they we even present in the Roman Empire and look how that ended up!
Well (to bring it back to the subject of this thread) some roads that the Romans built are still in use!
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Old 11-01-2021, 10:53 PM   #12
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The state could collect both the federal and state tax based on vehicle weight and miles drive when the registration is renewed and then remit the federal part to the feds.

Another problem that I see is collecting. With gas taxes the government collects a little at a time which makes it more affordable... but with a mileage/weight approach I assume that collection will be once a year... will those who live paycheck to paycheck be able to come up with the cash to pay it if a high percentage of the population can't come up with $400 for an emergency?
Good point but the taxes really are not that high. Someone who drives 12000 miles a year in a 30 mpg car pays about $140 in a state where the tax is $0.35/gal. I understand that may be quite a bit for some people but they are already paying it and paying about $2000 a year for the gas. Obviously if you drive a lot more miles in a gas guzzler you pay a lot more but those are usually personal choices.

I'm not arguing for higher gas taxes, just trying to discuss what would be a fair way to collect them given changing vehicle demographics. I think we can all agree roads need to be maintained for everyone's benefit.

I learned today that Hawaii's gas tax is jus our general excise tax (GET) of ~4%. So it is no a fixed amount per gallon but varies with the gas price. A couple of other states do this. And interestingly, although the GET applies to almost everything, it does not seem to be charged on my electric bill! So EV owners are escaping the tax.
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Old 11-01-2021, 11:01 PM   #13
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Well (to bring it back to the subject of this thread) some roads that the Romans built are still in use!
Off topic but I always loved this story about another Roman legacy:

The standard railroad gauge of 4 ft 8.5 inches was based on ruts in Roman roads in England caused by chariot wheels which were determined by the width of horse's butts (spacing of two horses standing next to each other).

That story is dubious but it seems to now be generally accepted that the rail gauge evolved from ancient cart wheel spacings.

I wonder how the Romans collected road taxes!
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Old 11-02-2021, 12:17 AM   #14
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Biggest problem with gas tax is not electric vehicles (2 pct of vehicles maybe?). It is politicians raiding the highway fund for non-highway spending

That's an even tougher problem.
As an advocate for improving on road bicycling infrastructure, many motorists complain bikes donít pay their fair share. Frankly, no one pays their fair share. Then what was in the fund gets redirected.
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Old 11-02-2021, 05:22 AM   #15
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Only as EV trucks get to 5% of all trucks will the road wear issue need to be addressed. Commercial truck mileage is easily tracked and taxed.


Consumers, even if they do much less road wear damage, still pay a lot of the current tax. Tracking and taxing them will be more difficult. I guess annual inspections could record miles, so there ya go?
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Old 11-02-2021, 07:00 AM   #16
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Since my state has an additional fee for EVS every year imagine this isn't a big problem that needs solving. Of course since my fully charged vehicle holds about $4.00 in fuel to support its 300 mile range I really don't care.
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Old 11-02-2021, 08:24 AM   #17
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Was involved with transportation infrastructure financing for a large portion of my career.

In the years before implementing a gas tax in our state we had a pilot project to gather mileage driven with a little gadget plugged into your car with the idea of taxing on a per mile basis. That pilot project died over privacy issues Ö no one really wants the govt to know where, when and how much you drive.

In my state EVs pay more annually for their vehicle registration. The rest of us with ICE vehicles painfully pay the tax at the pump.
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Old 11-02-2021, 08:35 AM   #18
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but we might be able to solve the ev issue. We'll never be able solve the problem of politicians!
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Old 11-02-2021, 09:44 AM   #19
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Since my state has an additional fee for EVS every year imagine this isn't a big problem that needs solving. Of course since my fully charged vehicle holds about $4.00 in fuel to support its 300 mile range I really don't care.
Illinois has increased the annual registration fee for EV's over gas fueled cars in an attempt to offset this discrepancy. It doesn't account for miles driven but I think this is a fair compromise for now. Just because trucks may have a higher impact on road deterioration, I don't think we should overlook asking the electric family vehicle's to support the roads as some here might suggest.
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Old 11-02-2021, 10:20 AM   #20
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Illinois has increased the annual registration fee for EV's over gas fueled cars in an attempt to offset this discrepancy. It doesn't account for miles driven but I think this is a fair compromise for now. Just because trucks may have a higher impact on road deterioration, I don't think we should overlook asking the electric family vehicle's to support the roads as some here might suggest.
(Bold added)
It is the worse form of taxation. The lack of a mileage component is completely unfair.

ALL vehicles that use the roads should pay on miles driven, and weight of vehicle.

Government needs to figure out an equitable method of levying road taxes, and treat all vehicles the same.
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