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Be Alert For Additional Taxes on Your Hot Rod, Even If It’s a Corvette

In the Interim: Keep one eye on lawmakers and one eye on your wallet

Brian Brennan Feb 22, 2017
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There isn’t a part of our daily lives that some form of government—whether it be local, citywide, state, or federal—isn’t trying to separate you from your money. (A wealthy friend once told me that making money wasn’t the difficult part … it was the keeping of it that kept him up at night!) On the whole these taxes, levies or fees take care of a multitude of items that we need. And while all of us in some form believe we pay too much in taxes the fact is we have it better than many countries and the return on our investment is better than the rest.

However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to our duly elected officials for as well-meaning as they are—and I’m giving most the benefit of the doubt—the fact is sometimes they lose their “way.” By this I mean unnecessary or excessive taxes that should have been more closely monitored before reaching critical mass. While reading an issue of Hemmings Motor News I came across a proposed Oregon law that was, fortunately for us automotive hobbyists, struck down. This is an example of such a tax that had it gone through uncontested, unchecked or held to a higher standard would have proven expensive to those of us in the car hobby.

The following was one state’s attempt to generate revenue. As we all know, the government may make money but on its own it doesn’t generate “new” monies. All of its operating capital comes from its constituents whether it is, again, on a local, citywide, state or federal level. Without us any form of government cannot function, at least not if it has a budget and spends money.

The state of Oregon recently had a proposed law titled HB 2877 introduced by its House Committee of Revenue. Both hobbyists and normal folk were very fortunate their state legislators opted not to allow this House Bill to gain traction and work its way through the hallways to become a law.

Simply stated, the revenue committee was looking for a way to round up additional funds but this time it would have been at the misfortune of older car owners. Now, while many of us drive newer Corvettes, the reality is there are a healthy number of older Corvettes on the road. Many may not be daily drivers but they do frequently see the light of day. The result of this impact tax of $1,000 levied every five years on any vehicle older than 20 years would have been significant and burdensome. Think about that for a minute. Basically every pre-LS-powered (C1, C2, C3, C4) Corvette would fall into the clutches of this tax.

It should be noted that if your Corvette is registered as an antique you would be exempt. Not knowing Oregon law but I can tell you that of the few states that I am familiar with Corvettes aren’t considered antique vehicles. (If you have an antique plate on your Corvette I would like to know how you did it in your state. If you are in one of “my” states you have “bent” the registration process to make that happen!)

Oregon was specific that should this have become law the money would have been used to maintain the state’s roads and bridges … a lofty and righteous goal. However, in my state there’re already such taxes like a portion of the gasoline tax, registration fees and others already earmarked for such maintenance.

Oregon does have a couple of “outs” for owners of vintage cars (Corvettes) used only for exhibitions, parades, club events could be exempt along with vehicles (Corvettes) that are 25 years and older to qualify under the states “special interest” exemption. Unfortunately, upon closer examination of HB 2877 no exemption was made for special interest vehicles. Now that would have been a big ol’ bummer for vintage car owners, which take in a healthy dose of Corvettes still on the road.

It was noted that the Oregon House Committee on Revenue didn’t schedule a hearing for the bill, effectively killing it before it even had a chance to garner any support. (SEMA, our automotive aftermarket association that’s a watchdog for the likes of all car hobbyists was informed the bill was “dead on arrival.”)

The proposed bill was not only a bad idea for automotive enthusiasts but also to those of us that drive an older vehicle because we choose to do so or must out of economic necessity. If you are wondering how such a bill could even come from the mind of a politician, which we would all most likely agree there is little reason why so many things occur, the rationale was made that, “older vehicles cause a disproportionate wear and tear on Oregon roads.” I guess your older Corvette or mine, because of its inherently skinny tires, must “cut” into the road more so than a newer Corvette with fatter tires? (Hey, that was my best guess.)

While this didn’t become law there are other attempts by many states to gather additional revenue for whatever the reason. The takeaway from this lesson should be to pay close attention to what’s happening in your state. Additional driving taxes such as increased gasoline taxes, mileage taxes (based on how far you drive your car), and others are all lurking about.

Be aware that any new tax that comes upon the scene will most assuredly be enacted yet no old tax will be removed. Taxes have a way of being piled on. Take the time to watch what’s happening in your home state, county and city … forewarned is forearmed.

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