More Congress Critters Want To Track And Tax Your Driving Habits

from the why? dept

For years, various state politicians have pushed the idea of a “mileage tax” for driving, and it’s never made much sense at all. Yet, just a few months ago, we noted that some politicians in the federal government were pushing the idea as well — even though the Obama administration said it would not approve such an idea. Still, that’s not stopping some politicians. Rep. James Oberstar is so strongly in support of a plan, he says he doesn’t want any pilot programs, studies or information about such a plan, he thinks it should just be implemented right now.

Of course, these plans have never made much sense at all. They would be crazy expensive, in that every car would need to be outfitted with a GPS device, and then that info would have to be communicated to the government (certainly something of a privacy concern). And, the really silly thing is that we already have a much better and cheaper proxy in place: gas taxes. Not only that, but the gas tax at least encourages people to use more fuel efficient vehicles, and increases the demand for alternative energy vehicles. So it’s difficult to come up with a single viable reason for a mileage tax, but that’s apparently not stopping Oberstar from demanding that it be started right now.

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Comments on “More Congress Critters Want To Track And Tax Your Driving Habits”

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65 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

The government would treat it just like cigarettes. Every time they need more money for something, they would increase the tax. Then, people would complain because they are unfairly being targeted and the government would respond, global warming this, pollution that, environment, etc etc. They would justify it by saying that they want to reduce driving and fuel use when really, they just want money.

Like with cigarettes, they will try killing the cow for the milk.

Tgeigs says:

Re: Re:

“They would justify it by saying that they want to reduce driving and fuel use when really, they just want money”

I can’t be certain, but I think not. If they just want more money, there are already policies in place that allow for that, I.E. gas taxes. High gas taxes can also be an answer to the “How do we influence driving to save the environment” question.

No, the thing that stood out to me in this story was that wonderful three letter acronym: GPS. As best as I can tell, the only thing that this program makes sense for is movement tracking, and the government has no right to know where/when I am at any given moment (provided I’m not a felon, on parole, child molester, foriegn national, etc.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: BUT THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT

This is very different, people do not need to smoke. That is purely a social activity and a personal choice. Most people need to drive, my commute to work is 45 min driving (which I share with my wife). To use public transportation takes me 2.5 hrs and costs 350 per month (twice!).

or take my brother who has public trans. in his area.

The GOV(umm, republicans!!) is now trying to rape and pillage us, because they effed up and allowed the banking and real estate industries to screw our economy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: BUT THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT

“This is very different, people do not need to smoke. That is purely a social activity and a personal choice. Most people need to drive, my commute to work is 45 min driving (which I share with my wife). To use public transportation takes me 2.5 hrs and costs 350 per month (twice!).”

This isn’t different. It’s something I choose to do. You choose to work that far away. Sure, the job you’re looking for isn’t close, but, you chose that career. Your personal choice. It’s not like this is a communist situation where your profession is chosen for you. Right?

It’s not about what I choose to do or not do. It’s about being taxed for something disproportionately to other activities.

You would feel the driving tax more than I would because I only drive half as far. Which is no different than now. The only difference between then and now is that the government will be watching both of us in one way/shape/form. Also, when they want more money, they just increase the tax on those who drive more miles.

As it is, you can get around the taxes by driving a diesel car or an electric. Under the new system, you and I both would be taxed the same regardless of fuel type.. at least that is how it reads.

Oh, and for your info, in general, Republicans generally favor less taxes, less federal government, more state government, a stronger military and advantages for businesses so they can grow/employ more. A Democrat is generally for higher taxes on businesses and individuals to fund programs, government intervention to help the less fortunate, more federal programs, a smaller military.

Tgeigs says:

Re: Re: Re: BUT THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT

“Oh, and for your info, in general, Republicans generally favor less taxes, less federal government, more state government, a stronger military and advantages for businesses so they can grow/employ more”

You’re confusing conservatives and Republicans. They used to be the same, or at least similar. They no longer are. For instance, take a look at the size of government under Clinton compared to after 8 years of Bush, even only when Republicans held a majority in Congress. Vastly greater in size.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 BUT THIS IS VERY DIFFERENT

Not really, like I said, “In General”.

Generally, Republicans consider themselves conservatives and Democrats consider themselves as librals. Yes, I understand that there are libral Republicans and conservative Democrats.

The things I stated are the general rules. Otherwise, nobody would be able to identify with being either if there wasn’t some sort of belief structure… subject to change depending on the wind and planetary alignment that is. You know politicians.

RD says:

not difficult at all

“So it’s difficult to come up with a single viable reason for a mileage tax, but that’s apparently not stopping Oberstar from demanding that it be started right now.”

No, its really not difficult at all to understand. Its about money and power, as are all things when it comes to the government. They either want to control you, or take your money, as much of either as possible, preferably at the same time.

Power and Greed know no boundries.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a trend where politicians like to find “new” ways to tax people. iTunes tax, red light cameras, GPS in every car, internet tax, etc. It’s kind of irritating to watch these people in great positions of power have almost ZERO common sense or knowledge about what they’re passing policies/laws on (“the internet is a series of tubes” anyone?)

I always thought it should be a politician’s job to figure out ways NOT to tax people for crap the country doesn’t need.

Ryan says:

Re: Re:

This is a trend where politicians like to find “new” ways to tax people.

If by trend, you mean the way politicians have been acting since the beginning of society.

I always thought it should be a politician’s job to figure out ways NOT to tax people for crap the country doesn’t need.

Contradiction in terms; government bureacrats will expand their powers until checked by a backlash of the electorate, just like your house will continue to become disordered until you act to clean it up. As long as we keep electing Democrats, non-conservative Republicans, and other politicians that refuse to eliminate taxes, spending, and over-reaching laws and regulations, they’ll keep finding new ways to tax and spend.

Anonymous Coward says:

Greed: Death and Taxes

Tax his land, Tax his bed,
Tax the table At which he’s fed.

Tax his tractor, Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes Are the rule.

Tax his cow, Tax his goat,
Tax his pants, Tax his coat.

Tax his ties, Tax his shirt,
Tax his work, Tax his dirt.

Tax his tobacco, Tax his drink,
Tax him if he Tries to think.

Tax his cigars, Tax his beers,
If he cries, then Tax his tears.

Tax his car, Tax his gas,
Find other ways To tax his ass

Tax all he has Then let him know
That you won’t be done Till he has no dough.

When he screams and hollers, Then tax him some more,
Tax him till He’s good and sore.

Then tax his coffin, Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in Which he’s laid.

Put these words upon his tomb,
“Taxes drove me to my doom…”

When he’s gone, Do not relax,
Its time to apply The inheritance tax.

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
Commercial Drivers License license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax,
Fuel permit tax
Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Interest expense
Inventory tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service charge taxes
Social Security Tax
Road usage taxes
Sales Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
SchoolTax
StateIncome Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone federal excise tax
Telephone federal universal service fee tax
Telephone federal, state and local surcharge taxes
Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax
Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax
Telephone state and local tax
Telephone usage charge tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago,
and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.
We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class
in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.
What happened?

Paul says:

more than money?

A lot of people are saying that this is just a way to get more money, but could it be about more than that? If every car has gps to track how far you’ve drive, surely they can use it to know exactly where and when you’ve driven. They can say all they want about protecting people’s privacy but if the information is there it will certainly be abused.

Don says:

(* quote *)
The GOV(umm, republicans!!) is now trying to rape and pillage us, because they effed up and allowed the banking and real estate industries to screw our economy.
(* /quote *)

To the clown who wrote the above:
Rep. James Oberstar is a union loving Democrat.

Also, everyone is assuming here that there would be EITHER a gas tax or mileage tax. Have you not been paying attention. The Democrats WANT BOTH.

Overcast says:

The GOV(umm, republicans!!) is now trying to rape and pillage us, because they effed up and allowed the banking and real estate industries to screw our economy.

You need to check your facts there – it’s a majority democrat right now.

But that’s really immaterial. The whole Democrat/Republican charade is just to make people think it’s two different parties; rather than just one party pillaging the taxpayers.

They ‘talk’ alot about two parties – but the ‘actions’ they take lead many to believe that’s not the case at all.

Matt Bennett says:

Yes, Republicans will tax, a bit, and all politicians will spend money. But no Republican would support THIS tax.

It’s not that it’s a targeted tax (thought that sucks too), it’s the basically needless privacy violation.

For years, Democrats wanted to tax and tax gas, cuz they thought you used too much gas, and it’s hurting the environment. Now, boo hoo, people are using too little gas! I’d think that’d be mission accomplished. (even though I do not particularly share their mission) But no, govs gotta get it’s crack somehow. What kinda bait and switch is that?

Ryan says:

Re: Re:

Yes, Republicans will tax, a bit, and all politicians will spend money. But no Republican would support THIS tax.

It’s not that it’s a targeted tax (thought that sucks too), it’s the basically needless privacy violation.

The funny thing is, if you switched the motivation from incentives to help the environment to aiding intelligence against immigrants and terrorists, most Republicans would be supporting this and Democrats decrying it. The way it seems to work anymore, one party picks a side on a particular ideology, the other side plays devil’s advocate, and the party members follow the mob regardless of their individual policy views. Pretty sad.

Matt Bennett says:

Re: Re: Re:

I find on the face of it your accusation unlikely. From Wikipedia: “Otter was also very critical of the Bush Administration’s domestic spying efforts. He served as a deputy majority whip for most of his time in Congress despite his opposition to many key Bush Administration policies.”

Matt Bennett says:

It can be hoped, at least, that a pretty roundly stomped republican party will get back to the basics that brought the majority to them. If not them, then maybe fiscal conservatives can form a party of their own. Sure, we’ll take the blue-dog democrats, too.

Just the same, no Republican has, nor I think, ever would, support this style of tax.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

No...it's just more tax!

The sentiment that this is just an additional tax is true. Example: In Iowa, the state wanted to up gas taxes because the decline of fuel usage during the $4/gal period resulted in a reduction of revenue to the state. So conservation had nothing to do with it. It is all about funding their pointless, wasteful programs.

Lohocla says:

Milage Tax

In theory it makes sense in a very distorted way.

Tax rebates are given for “green” cars
Tax revenue declines because cars drive further on less gas (less gas sold = lost revenue)

So, adding the fact that tax breaks are given for buying the fuel efficient cars coupled with the less gas being sold…govt is losing money.

That said, to try to track and collect taxes on mileage recorded from a GPS device, to me, is full of it.

GPS isn’t 100% accurate as anyone who’s gotten stuck in a city using one can attest. They don’t function well when the is blocked by buildings.

Not even going to get into the circumvention and the money that would have to be spent constantly upgrading and securing the devices for the myriad of ways around it that would pop up after 2 months of use.

At that point the tax would be increased because they would be losing money supporting the device.

Pretty stupid really, but that’s apparently the name of the game.

I say cut out the IRS completely, flat tax everyone 10% sales tax on everything. That right there would drastically change the country for the better. (No tax lawyers needed, no figuring out taxes at the end of the year, no money taken from your paychecks, etc…..

William (profile) says:

Re: Milage Tax

There are a few issues with a tax like that. First is what about those who are buying something to be used with another product. You’d need to exempt those products from sales tax.

Another issue is that it is not progressive. A progressive income tax makes it so those that are rich, contribute more by percent then those who are poor. If i make 10,000$ a year, I’d only be able to spend just over 9,000 before I ran out of money. That is a huge difference on how much I can buy. But if I make 1,000,000 a year, I can spend just over 900,000. I still can spent a very large amount of money when compared to the costs of living.

The last issue I am going to point out is that the tax needs to be higher than 10%. In Washington state the sales tax is very close to 10%, yet the government still doesn’t have the money required to keep the basic infrastructure and education systems working perfectly.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Odometer -> Excise Tax -> tax per mile.

As it’s been said by many others, your odometer already tracks miles driven. In most of the states I’ve seen you have to tell the government your odometer reading to register your car. Therefore, your excise tax could be based on the value of the car at purchase (you haven’t driven any miles yet) then at a cost of base plus rate * tax per mile each year after that. In order to sell your car you have to pay the residual excise tax when you turn in your plates.

Fair tax per mile, effects electric/hydrogen/gas/etc. vehicles doesn’t require any new privacy invading technology.

Makes sense, therefore it’ll never get implemented. Oh well.

Just a few quick thoughts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Considering the Census is about to track with GPS all your buildings and structures.. Coupled with something like this, you would literally know where every car went and who they were visiting.. Of course the Census GPS stuff is for your benefit. Making sure that emergency services can find you quickly, etc.. It’s for your own good.. Of course this one is to force people greener and use less gas and carpool more, etc.. right.. It’s not about knowing every move every citizen errrrr subject is making..

Couple that with them listening to everything all the time and it would be just like having your own NSA agent / spy sitting along for the ride taking notes on all your actions.. Of course what you pay in TAXES for this SERVICE would more than make up for implementing and maintaining it..

But we need to do it for your safety and for the kids and for the environment.. Note they want to take your guns to help Mexico with their drug problem… Yeah… Taking away guns from US citizen.. er subjects will somehow help the Mexican police handle Mexican Drug Lords…

What is it they say about absolute power…

Christopher Smith says:

Odometer, anyone?

Why is it that whenever politicians dredge up the idea of a mileage tax, it has to be implemented by GPS? The fact that odometer readings could be used to implement the exact same tax at much lower cost points up that they’re not even pretending that this isn’t about tracking everyone.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Odometer, anyone?

To play Devil’s advocate, I think that a lot of odometers would mysteriously get “broken” after this law took effect.

The whole idea is stupid. Taxes should not be based on behavior, but only on physical goods, property, or transactions. Can anyone give an example of another tax that is based solely on behavior without a good attached to it? I can’t think of any.

Anonymous Coward says:

The rep needs to lead the way and outfit his cars with GPS systems, and report each and every mile he drives, the roads he drives on, and when he did it, to a public website so that his employers (us) can see what he is doing with his time.
Then we’ll see how wonderful he thinks this idea is.
The “use tax” crap is just a way for the snoopy folks to backdoor in tracking methods. The are looking across the pond to UK’s cameras (and ignoring the utter uselessness of them) and are green with envy, and want something better to track people with.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think they should put in place an Air Tax and a Tax Tax. They should also put in place a special tax for people who can’t afford to pay taxes.

I just love how the income tax takes part of what I earn, and the sales tax takes the rest. For most people the luxury tax doesn’t even come into play, assuming they need to eat to stay alive.

crystalattice (profile) says:

Re: Why GPS?

This is my question. GPS is for navigation: tracking where you are, where you’ve been, and where you are going. It has nothing to do with tracking miles traveled, except in an incidental manner.

Creating some sort of “government certified” device that acts like an odometer and gets looked annually when you register your car seems like a more plausible idea. That way, you truly are only being charged for the miles you have driven.

anymouse says:

Are we sure it isn't just about the money?

When it comes out that Oberstar’s bother/uncle/friend/GOB owns the GPS company that’s going to get the contract to provide the devices being used, install them, and provide the monitoring, things will become a little clearer about why he wants it pushed thru now without any review, and you can say you read it on Techdirt first.

Flips tinfoil hat to dull side out during this rainy weather…. It works better that way, or so I’m told.

P.Oed American says:

So Screwed Up

This is rediculous. Government my butt. This is why I don’t vote because I would never vote for someone who went to college who has a degree, someone who is money hungry, I would vote for everyday people like me, a redneck, a bum, a stay at home mom, a single dad. These are the people I would vote for. Someone who knows whats good and bad who will be able to change things for the better, for the better in people and not themselves like these so called politicians. We all could get together and protest about all this nonsence but you know what would happen. Cops would come, they would claim it got violent, they would take us all out. That’s how are wonderful government works. They keep people quite to protect their butts I wish someone would come clean on some really good dirt and put them all to shame and away for good. I want to have a make over with our government.

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