Yearly tax on car...why?

I just received a “bill” in the mail for a tax on my car. It calculated out the assessed value of the car (half of what I bought it for a year ago, BTW), and multiplied that by around 8 or 9%. Apparently I owe the government $500! I’m not really sure why I owe this.
It’s not a sales tax. I paid that last year when I bought it.
It’s not a tax to operate it. I pay that every time I go to the gas station.
It’s not a tax to use it on roads. I pay that in tolls.
It can’t be a personal property tax. There’s lots and lots of property I own that the government doesn’t seem to care about taxing me for.
It can’t be a tax to ensure the car can be IDed by the government. I pay that in the form of license plates and yearly registration fees.

Come to think of it, I pay a lot of taxes on my car. Which brings me to my question: why in the hell am I being forced to pay $500 just because I own a car? What am I being charged for here?

Now, whether you agree or disagree about it, I can at least understand the stated purpose of a yearly property tax on houses you own. The government still owns the land itself and you’re just kinda renting from it.

But this? Why? Seriously? The government doesn’t own my car. It’s mine.

You live in a state with a “personal property tax.” I know, we tend to think of property taxes as applying only to real property. But certain classes of personal property are also taxed. Cars in some states, also boats, planes, etc. Other possible targets include works of art, business inventory, etc.

California had that, and the result was that registering a car every year was an expensive proposition. I love Ohio for the fact they don’t have a personal property tax on cars.

The good news: it’s a tax, and to the extent it is a tax, it’s deductable on the federal schedule for payments of state taxes. So, if you itemize your deductions, it makes the personal property tax slightly less onerous. Of course, it’s only deductable to the extent of the tax; often there is only a portion of the yearly registration fee that is actually a tax, and the rest is fees which are not deductable.

Yeah, I know it’s a personal property tax. But my point was that

  1. I already pay a heck of a lot of taxes about, for, and surrounding the use and ownage of my car.
  2. There’s a ton of personal property of mine the government doesn’t bother taxing.

I’m trying to determine a reason the government has for taxing a possession of mine that the government doesn’t own, has no claim over, and hasn’t gone through the stream of commerce in this year. The only answer I can come up with is “because they can,” and that doesn’t seem right.

The reason is they want the money. There is no end to have the government could tax if they so chose. The only defense you have is to have is that people want to get reelected.

They want to make money from renters.

OTOH, it’s a local tax, and I can deduct most of it from my state income tax, so it works out ok. The deduction is capped at a few hundred bucks, so it’s meaningless for property tax, but it’s nice for the car tax.

Don’t forget to hold:confused:

One reason why a personal property tax on cars can be viewed favorably is because it tends to be a progressive tax. People with the money to buy Hummers would pay a sizable tax bill each year, those who drive more normal cars pay less, and poor people who take the bus aren’t touched at all. Some may view it as preferable to have this kind of tax which raises more from those who own many expensive cars, rather than, say, raise the sales tax which tends to collect proportionately more money from those with lower incomes.

As far as what allows government to tax personal property, there’s no constitutional protections against such kinds of taxation, so if a government wants to tax cars, planes, or whatever, they can pretty much have at it to the extent that voters allow them to do so. (A few years back in Virginia, there was a gubernatorial candidate who won on a platform of getting rid of Virginia’s car tax. IIRC, it was cut somewhat, but not eliminated, because the prospect of raising other kinds of taxes to make up the lost revenue was too big of a pill to swallow.)

You’re being charged for having a government - taxes aren’t about penalising you for doing certain things; they’re about generating the level of income that the government has deemed appropriate for itself.

I paid for my SUV years ago yet Massachusetts still charges me an excise tax every year. Like you, I don’t think it is right. It is just a tax because they think they can. Car ownership generally means some level of other wealth and they want to take it. They could base the tax on the number of individual pieces of clothing that you own if they wanted to. However, sending an assessor to go through everyone’s closet every year just wouldn’t fly. Excise taxes just barely do.

Here in the Boston area, it gets even worse than that. The western suburbs tend to be affluent so we have tolls on the Mass Turnpike that are basically a necessity to get to Boston. These aren’t your average tolls at .50 cents or so either. You can rack up a $6 bill both coming and going into the city which means hundreds of dollars a month just to get to work for people like my wife. The tolls were put into place to pay for the turnpike itself. That goal was accomplished years ago yet what type of progressive government could ever turn down such a revenue stream no matter how unfair and illogical it is?

Actually, many are - think about cigarette and liquor taxes…They both bring in revenue, and discourage behavior.

This may be a Great Debate but your argument is completely open ended. It doesn’t allow for the fact that some taxes may be too high or may be targeted completely inappropriately towards certain groups like newer car owners. You could make the (often poor) argument that excise taxes are used for things like road repair and emergency assistance but that doesn’t differentiate between someone that drives a $1000 beater and someone with a $50,000 sports car. The tax at hand is just an example of taking money because there is some indirect evidence that given people seem to have a surplus of it.

Perhaps, but the point is that that it isn’t really a system constructed to be nice, fair and logical - it’s a system constructed to generate revenue and be as nearly tolerable as possible. The government could try to tax little girls for owning kittens, if they decided, but it would probably be unprofitable and unpopular. Any appearance of fairness and niceness is borne out of expediency.

I don’t think there’s any way to define ‘too high’ or ‘inappropriate’, except in terms of public opinion. The OP’s argument could be made regarding any tax. Why do I pay income tax? - I worked for that money myself.

Taxes are a pretty much inevitable feature of a government that spends money doing things. Governments will excise those taxes from wherever they think they can best do so without appearing to take the piss.

Whenever I see tax comments referring to the government as “they” it makes me smile. We are the government. But you know that…

The reason for this tax is that the people in Kansas have elected officials who passed it. This money funds the government and its services.

Interestingly, outrage over services seldom rises to the level of outrage over taxes to pay for them. (“I am taking a course at the community college and they are not charging me what it actually costs to provide the class, those bastards!”) Unless you really are confused about how government works (doubtful) it seems to me this thread belongs in the Pit. I would be happy to join you there and complain about how incompetent the elected officials are, and how maldistributed taxes and benefits are.

Some time ago I tried to start a thread on how we might tax wealth instead of income. It went nowhere. Property tax is a good example of the difficulty of trying to pass taxes which get at what you have instead of how much ordinary income you make.

Um, the government doesn’t own your land or house, nor does it have a claim over it, nor does it go through the stream of commerce every year. Yet, you pay thousands in real property taxes every year. Where is your complaint there?

And why does the fact something is in or out of commerce in a given year have anything to do with the legitimacy of taxing it? :smack:

You want to start a rant, go to GD

Since you are required to register your car with the state, they already know you own it. Consequently, it’s more convenient for them to tax everyone who owns a car than it is to go after other items of equal value like, say, Rolex watches.

It is a tax to use it on raods. In fact, (in CA at least) you can file a doc stating that you will not use the car on public roads and the fee is some tiny amount for filing.

The rest is indeed a “tax” and it is used (supposedly) for highway improvements and repairs. It is deductable on your Federal 1040 Sch “A”.

The government does not own your land. You do.

I think you are seriously over-estimating how much these ‘pay’ for the costs.

Here in Minnesota, the taxes directly related to cars (like the gas tax, license plate fees, sales taxes on vehicles, etc.) cover less than 1/3rd of the cost to build & maintain the roads. So the general fund covers the remaining 2/3rds of these costs. Some people say this means automobiles are subsidized by taxpayers in general, including those who don’t own or operate cars.

Just out of interest, do leasehold land agreements exist in America? - In the UK, some houses are built on land leased (I assume from the local government) - often originally for a period of 999 years - and this is declared in the details given by the estate agent to prospective buyers - it usually says something like ‘Leasehold: (residue 893 years)’

Presumably these people purchase goods transported over the roads? If they were to fund with 100% user fees, that’s very regressive, like imposing a huge sales tax that has a larger impact on the poor than it does on normal people. (I’m not arguing with you, but, like, the people don’t see this?)