Local consumers take rental tax hit

We all agree that we need to fix our roads and infrastructure, but before the Georgia legislature tacks a $5 flat fee across the board on rental vehicles, there are a few things they should know. Shifting the burden from a gas tax to a user fee in the form of a rental car surcharge does nothing to ease the financial stress on Georgia’s consumers. In fact, all it does is ensure that the burden is applied less fairly and targeted at consumers who can least afford it.

Since 1990, more than 100 rental car taxes have been enacted in 43 states and Washington, DC. In total, rental car customers have spent more than $7.5 billion to fund projects, repair roads and plug budget gaps. There’s a prevailing but erroneous belief that rental cars are driven by business travelers and tourists whose out-of-town money is seen as quick revenue fix for state transportation budgets.

This is simply untrue. In fact, approximately 50 percent of all car rentals comes from local car rental and car-sharing drivers. These are consumers who need a reliable vehicle to travel to a job interview, or take a trip to buy groceries, or replace their car when it’s in the shop. These are often consumers who can least afford to bear the burden of these discriminatory taxes – part-time workers, single parents and retirees on fixed incomes. Given the explosion of rental car taxes, politicians clearly see these consumers as their piggy banks and endless revenue generators.

Imagine you are renting a car from a local dealer to run a typical weekend errand. If the legislature has its way, the $5 fee they are considering will be added on top of the existing 3 percent county tax. While the underlying cost of renting the vehicle is relatively low, it is now possible that 50 percent of the total payment will go toward taxes and user fees. How much is too much? The National Consumers League (NCL) understands the role of taxation in providing critical services, but we do not support using a discriminatory tax targeted at the consumers who drive less frequently and can least afford the burden. Indeed, the NCL is part of the Curb Auto Rental Taxes (CART) campaign, a broad coalition of companies, policy organizations, and labor and consumer advocacy groups working to end excessive taxation on consumers in Georgia and across the country.

As the legislature considers how to fund Georgia’s transportation needs, I hope they will consider a way to ease the burden on consumers, not shift it from one consumer to another.

Sally Greenberg is executive director of the National Consumers League.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: When better relations were foreseen with Muslim world

This editorial appeared in The Atlanta Constitution, Thanksgiving Day, 1942. It is reprinted as written, using that era’s word “Moslem,” rather than today’s common-usage “Muslim: Nuri Es Sadi, prime minister of Iraq, has written President Roosevelt, stating the Arab races of North Africa and the Near East rejoice at the...
Opinion: A president finds uneasy peace with the press

This column appeared on the combined 1967 Thanksgiving Day Editorial page of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution: WASHINGTON — Who says Lyndon Johnson doesn’t like press conferences? He had one Friday and nobody in the East Room enjoyed it more. It has suddenly dawned on the President that the institution has its uses, and...
Opinion: Is America up for a second Cold War?

After the 19th national congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October, one may discern Premier Xi Jinping’s vision of the emerging New World Order. By 2049, the centennial of the triumph of Communist Revolution, China shall have become the first power on earth. Her occupation and humiliation by the West and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries...
Opinion: Challenges of holidays past still show way forward

The first rough drafts of history that are newspapers can offer valuable perspective during the year-end holidays. They prove that troubled times are nothing new to our country, and world. A Thanksgiving Day 1967 column by The Atlanta Constitution’s Ralph McGill, reprinted here today, included this paragraph that could have been written right...
Readers Write: Nov. 24

Cherrypicked data used to justify pay hikes I have to shake my head at the recent AJC article showing how the State Commission on Compensation has recommended very generous pay increases for lawmakers and high-ranking state officials “Georgia panel recommends pay hikes for lawmakers,” News, Nov. 9. This is while law enforcement, administrative...
More Stories