Drivers want Congress to curb car rental taxes

Should Congress limit the taxes a city or municipality can impose on a rental car?

It’s a question elected representatives are likely to take up soon, as they consider the End Discriminatory State Taxes for Automobile Renters Act of 2009. The law, which is backed by car rental companies, would limit the excise taxes a municipality can impose on rental cars.

Cities are fighting the measure, saying it would curb their ability to raise money and represents an unwanted federal intrusion.

But a survey of more than 600 travelers conducted last week by this site and the Consumer Travel Alliance suggests drivers are on the side of car rental companies.

Asked if Congress should freeze the discriminatory excise taxes imposed by some cities, 78 percent voted “yes.” Only 21 percent rejected the idea.

Travelers say they are most outraged by the discriminatory “tourist taxes” that fund sports stadiums and convention centers that they’ll never benefit from.

“I do not enjoy paying outrageous taxes for some billionaire to get a free stadium,” says Ted Clopton, a frequent car renter who responded to the survey. “Let those who attend the games pay for it in higher ticket prices. I think consumers should pay for what they use.”

The proposed bill wouldn’t roll back the controversial stadium taxes, according to Chris Brown, the executive editor of Auto Rental News. Rather, they will prevent any new ones from being imposed.

“Certainly, removing already existing excise taxes would have been preferable,” he says. “But the auto rental industry will be satisfied that, with the passage of this bill, all new discriminatory taxes moving forward would be prohibited from being heaped on auto rental customers.”

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But other motorists said they were against the measure, mostly for ideological reasons.

“We don’t need the federal government controlling any more aspects of our lives. These cities will eventually realize that the convention and vacation traffic will go somewhere else if they get too oppressive with their taxes,” said one commenter.

It looks as if we’ll have an answer to this question soon. The car rental industry is stepping up its efforts to get the End Discriminatory State Taxes for Automobile Renters Act passed later this year.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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