November 14, 2009

Big Brother and PC In Holland: Mileage Tax That Varies on Car Type and Time of Day Driven

gas-tax_100177492_sIn what is presented to readers of an Associated Press report as a done deal, the Netherlands will impose a mileage tax on drivers beginning in 2012. It goes beyond most if not all other government-imposed taxes in that it will charge more during so-called peak times or if a vehicle is considered a heavier polluter.

The abolition of two other taxes is apparently the mechanism for enticing the Dutch into acquiescing to this intrusive arrangement.

Media bias watchers will not be surprised to know that the AP’s unbylined Saturday report saved the government’s overhyped promises for the report’s second-last paragraph, and the tax-detailing punch line for the final one.

Here are some excerpts (bolds are mine; I believe that “mike” in the first paragraph refers to “micrometer”):

Dutch drivers to pay tax on road time, not on car

Dutch drivers will pay less to buy a car but will be charged tax for every mike on the road, a system the government says will reduce traffic jams, fatal accidents and carbon emissions.

The Cabinet approved a bill Friday calling for drivers of an average passenger car to pay a base rate of euro0.03 per 1 kilometer (7 US cents per mile), beginning in 2012. Drivers of heavier, more polluting vehicles will pay more, and the cost will go up for driving in peak hours.

GPS will track the time, hour and place each car moves and send the data to a billing agency.

But the annual road tax and purchase tax for new cars will be abolished, reducing the price of a new car 25 percent, the Transport Ministry said.

Nearly 6 out of 10 drivers will benefit under the system, the ministry said, but government revenue would remain the same. Public transportation, including taxis, will be exempt.

….. The ministry calculated that overall traffic will drop about 15 percent, peak-hour congestion will be halved, traffic deaths will fall 7 percent and carbon emissions from road travel will be cut by 10 percent.

The tax will increase every year until 2018 and could be adjusted if it fails to change traffic patterns.

It’s “clever” how AP, which knows quite well that later paragraphs are the ones most likely to get edited out by subscribing publications and most likely not to be broadcast by radio and TV subscribers, saved the little tidbit that the tax will increase for six consecutive years after it first goes into effect until the very end.

Some U.S. states have proposed such a regime, most notably Oregon, but as far as I know the idea has ever made it into law. Obama administration Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood floated the idea in a February AP interview, but his own Department’s spokesperson said that, “The policy of taxing motorists based on how many miles they have traveled is not and will not be Obama administration policy.”

Other points and questions:

  • The Dutch Cabinet is somewhat analogous to ours. There is no word from the AP as to whether the country’s bicameral legislature has had or will have any say in this.
  • Will the peak-hour premium apply in areas where there is no significant peak-hour traffic?
  • Who gets to decide whether the tax has “changed traffic patterns”?
  • Will the government force Dutch citizens to give it their banking information (if they haven’t done so already in other areas) so they can debit drivers’ accounts each month?
  • Will the government be able to remotely disable a driver’s car for late payment or non-payment of the tax?

Finally, unexcerpted paragraphs refer to privacy concerns and the government’s promise that detailed driving information won’t be used for other purposes. How credible is that promise?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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