Car tax burden shifting

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Car tax burden shifting
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To the editor: 

Last year I purchased a small and unexciting, albeit new, Hyundai for my family. I was shocked upon opening this year’s car tax bill and, after talking with neighbors, it seems I’m not alone. For yet another fiscal year City Council has cut Personal Property Tax Relief for cars valued over $25,000. These cars receive just 14% relief on the first $20,000 of assessed value, down from 39% for this same bracket only seven years ago. 

And while the city steadily increases the total taxes owed by vehicles in this tier, the tier’s dollar threshold has not been adjusted one penny. For the city, it’s a lucrative sleight of hand: they reduce only the top-tier relief percentage to allow for popular “Tax the Rich” messaging, while in practice, more and more lower-income households find themselves pushed into this bracket as car prices rise naturally over time. 

Based on inflation alone, the top bracket should begin with assessed values over $35,000 by now. Absent this change, even the cheapest minivan on the market today is sorted into this uppermost tier that you might have assumed is reserved for luxury vehicles – and it was, once upon a time. 

You’ll have to forgive residents who follow the city’s strong financial incentive to hang onto gas-guzzling clunkers as more efficient family haulers find themselves in the same tax category as Rolls Royce and Bentley. 

Meanwhile, consider this an inconvenient reminder that we’re still failing to meet federal ozone air quality standards established in 2015, in large part due to older, dirtier models still on the road. 

-Jason Muller, Alexandria

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