Sun, May 21, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Committee postpones fuel tax reform decision

PAT AT THE PUMPA fuel tax In the 1960s saw many drivers use underground suppliers to avoid the charge, which lead to road maintenance funds shortfalls

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The legislature’s Transportation Committee on Thursday voted to schedule another meeting to discuss whether the government should start charging car drivers a vehicle fuel tax based on the amount of gasoline they use, as committee members failed again to reach a consensus on an issue that has been debated for years.

The Highway Act (公路法) states that motor vehicle owners are required to pay a vehicle fuel tax every year, with the amount depended on the vehicles engine displacement — making it a fixed fee applicable to all vehicle owners, regardless of the distance driven that year.

Some people think that the tax should be based on the “beneficiary pays principle” and paid when people buy gasoline, while others believe asking drivers of electric cars to pay the tax is unreasonable, as they do not consume any fuel.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) has been hesitant to change the way vehicle fuel tax is charged.

Many drivers in the 1960s turned to underground oil suppliers for fuel to avoid paying fuel tax when the government introduced a fuel tax at the pump, the ministry said.

Not only did the policy lead to confusion in the petrochemicals retail market, but it led to a shortfall in the highway maintenance fund, which was partially funded by fuel taxes, the ministry said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲), one of the lawmakers who proposed that car drivers pay fuel taxes at the pump, said his proposal would reduce the cost of collecting taxes.

He said that many advanced countries around the world have already adopted the same policy and asked why the ministry continued to deem it unfeasible.

The government should start enforcing the policy next year and apply it to private cars first, he said, adding that the tax should be renamed the “road usage fee,” because that is how the funds are used.

DPP Legislator Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) opposed a change, saying that drivers should be charged based on the burden that their driving habits impose on road maintenance.

Drivers should be charged based on their driving distance, because it is the easiest way to determine a reasonable charge for road usage, he said, adding that it is the ministry’s responsibility to ensure that drivers do not tamper with odometers.

It is reasonable for gas retailers, which are regulated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, to collect the air pollution fee from consumers, as the use of fuel generates pollution, but Lin’s proposal would ask gas stations to collect the road usage fee as well, which should be collected by MOTC, Chung said.

The transportation ministry has to consider if it is legitimate for another government agency to collect the levy on its behalf, he added.

Meanwhile, counties with less-developed public transport systems should be charged less road usage fees, as residents depend heavily on the use of private motor vehicles, he said.

DPP Legislator Cheng Yun-pen (鄭運鵬) said that he was against changing the title of the fuel tax to road usage tax, because it would be like punishing people living in remote areas, who rely on the use of private vehicles for their everyday needs.

The government collects approximately NT$46 billion (US$1.52 billion) each year, which is used to fund road maintenance, MOTC Deputy Minister Chi Wen-chung (祈文中) said.

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