Drivers don’t pay enough tax

From I don’t pay road tax | At War With The Motorist:

The second is that Motoring and Motorism doesn’t have a single cost.  Talk about “road tax” and people will say that they’re paying for road construction and repair.  Talk to the slightly more sophisticated Motorists about “vehicle excise duty” and they will say that they’re paying for carbon emissions.  Nobody will ever say that they’re paying for particulate pollution — the fines our cities pay, and the thousands of economically active people who are killed by it every year.  Nobody will say that they are paying for the thousands of people who die on the roads; for the operations, the years of physiotherapy, and the lifelong disability support for those who are maimed.  Nobody will say that they are paying up-front for the later-life care for the obesity-related diseases that their sedentary lifestyle will bring upon themselves.  Nobody will say that they are compensating us for the breakup of communities or the closure of the village shop, the deleterious shifts in developmental patterns that affect us all.  The issue is not whether the taxes that Motorists pay cover the cost of road repairs: it is whether any amount of money could ever come close to making up for the many and varied destructive forces of car dependency.

So to be fair motorists should pay for:

  • Road construction
  • Road repair
  • Carbon Emissions
  • The costs related to those injured and killed on the roads. Full medical care (short and long term), social care, benefit support to the injured/killed and their families
  • Particulate pollution (the cost all the deaths, the cleanup, the low quality environment)
  • Their own future care needs resulting from a now exercise lifestyle that is a major cause of obesity
  • The destruction of communities caused by travelling away from local amenities, the destruction of communities by traffic, congestion and space allocated to parking

Of course I believe that to be fair cyclists, HGV’s etc should all be taxed proportionately to the above costs they cause.

I’ll make an offer. If I pay ₤5 a year per bike then would someone work out how much it is fair to charge a car. Here are some suggestions.

We could charge tax based on the number of people killed by each means of transport. There are approx 3,000 road deaths per year in the UK. I understand that in a very bad year 1 of these is caused by a bike. I don’t know the breakdown between cars and HGV’s etc but let us imagine that 1,000 of the deaths are caused by cars. On this measure cars would need to be taxed 1,000 times higher than a bike in order to contribute proportionally towards the total cost of those road. So if I pay ₤5 a year per bike then cars would need to pay ₤5,000 each.

We could charge based on the damage caused to the road. I understand that this is related to the cube (or more) weight on an axle. So for a bike say 60kg per axle (ie 120kg for rider and bike). For a Ford Focus 1150kg plus driver and divide by 4. is 1250/4 = approx 310kg.  Cube these and the bike is 216000 and the Focus 30,000,000 ie approx 140 times greater. By this calculation the tax on a Ford Focus would be ₤700 which seems a bargain. [Update] apparently road damage is simply proportional to the 3rd or 4th power of total weight. So that would mean 120 cubed for the bike (1728000) and 1250 cubed for the Ford Focus (1953125000). So ₤5 for the bike means ₤5650 for the Ford Focus.

As the Carbon emissions and Particulate emissions of a bike are zero the car tax would be infinity 🙂

It seems to me that Vehicle Excise Duty is an absolute bargain for car drivers. It is hard to find an argument for it being less than several thousand for the cheapest car.

It also seems that it is unlikely any car driver will want a cyclist to pay as much tax as ₤5 for their bike as it so dramatically shows how much greater the cost of a car to society is.

Anyway when it comes to cars we will want to include other taxes on motorists such as petrol/diesel. In fact my preference would be to get rid of Vehicle Excise Duty altogether and re-coup the tax through a tax on fuel (not sure how this is done for electric cars though). Tax on fuel is fairer as the tax is roughly proportionate to the damage a vehicle does to people, the environment, the roads, communities. Big cars driven long distances pay the most, small cars lightly used pay the least. Cars driven where there are too many cars use more fuel due to queuing and stop start driving. The tax is hard to dodge and encourages healthier behaviour (more local amenities, moving nearer to your work/school/…, shopping locally, using other forms of transport, choosing smaller and more efficient cars).

So as a concrete suggestion how about the following as a move to fairer tax on motoring:

  • Phase out Vehicle Excise Duty on cars over the next 5 years
  • Set a fixed increase in the tax on petrol, diesel & LPG at 10% (of the sale price) per year for  every year to remove doubt and to let people budget properly.
  • Implement a sales tax on all new vehicles that varies according to their efficiency (Co2, Particulates, fuel consumption) this avoids manufacturers creating cars that have a good fuel economy but high emissions, it replaces the Vehicle Excise Duty by being at purchase point only.
  • Implement congestion charging for all major cities and for the motorways that get most blocked
  • Find a way to ensure that electric cars pay a fair share of tax
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