Why and how to joyfully move our butts around town, without mucking the place up.

Big Brother concerns with collecting vehicle miles traveled taxes

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Tags: EV Taxes

Taxing on vehicle miles traveled fairly connects the tax to actual use, but the devil is in the details of how such a tax will be collected.

The existing gasoline tax, in the US, is extremely fair. The tax each person pays is based on the gasoline they buy, which typically corresponds strongly to how far they drive. The more they drive, the more wear and tear they put on the road, and the more taxes they pay to fund road repairs.

The existing gasoline tax, in the US, is anonymous. Anybody can buy gasoline by paying cash, even though it's become so much simpler today to pay with a credit card. Paying with cash means gasoline purchases and gasoline taxes are anonymous. The government doesn't know, so long as you pay with cash, how much gasoline you're buying and hence an estimate of the miles you've driven.

But, there is a demographic shift going on in vehicle fleets world-wide. Gasoline consumed per mile driven is falling because of efforts to increase fuel efficiency and to electrify the vehicle fleet. We want this shift to continue, but we also want the highway system to be well funded. (see What's problem electrified vehicles cause for highway funding)

This means governments around the US, or around the world, are pondering changes to highway system funding before the demographic shift causes a significant revenue shortfall.

The "big brother" style concern is that some of the proposals call for collecting a per-mile fee. Basing the road use taxes on vehicle miles traveled is very fair, because the amount each person pays is based on their road use.

Obviously a per-mile fee (vehicle miles traveled tax) can be measured by installing a GPS device in every vehicle that transmits data to government computers as you drive. Big Brother would then know exactly when and where each of us drives, and at what speed. They might automatically collect speeding ticket fines this way as well.

But do we want the government knowing everywhere we drive? Really?

Yes there are ways to anonymize the data so that the government knows the distance traveled, but not the locations or the date/time of the travel. But given recent revelations about NSA wiretapping of pretty much everything, can we trust the government won't misuse such data?

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