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6 June, 2005

Why change?

The government proposal to replace road tax (i.e. licence for a vehicle to be used on a public highway, even just parked – a 'per vehicle, per year' tax) and fuel tax ('per litre/gallon') with a pay-as-you-go tax on actual usage is an interesting one, but there are a few points which concern me.

It looks hideously complicated to implement and administer, even if no-one attempted to evade it (improbable!). I'd anticipate major teething problems, massive overspend, and then potential abandonment of the whole scheme. Cynical, or merely accustomed to government practice?

The fee would vary according to congestion, so that rural driving could cost as little as £0.02 per mile, rising to 1.43 per mile on the busiest roads (e.g. the M25 around London). Hence, it wouldn't be possible to merely measure the number of times a vehicle's wheels rotate (i.e. absolute distance), it would be necessary to also know where the vehicle has been.
If this could be stored within the vehicle itself and only transmitted to another body (e.g. the tax authority) with the knowledge and express permission of the driver, perhaps in tax bill disputes, I wouldn't particularly object, but if any external body (such as the police) could gain access to these records without the consent of the driver, and records were kept for more than a couple of weeks, I'd regard that as invasion of privacy, public surveillance, and unacceptable. It'd also be far too easy, and tempting, for a person's travel history to be linked to his/her entry on the national ID database.

The aspect that particularly confuses me is that we already have a usage-based, indirectly 'per mile' tax system, which also takes into account the relative fuel efficiency of vehicles. It's called fuel tax. I don't think it's broken, so why replace it?

Comments

just the idea of putting a system into place that will track the movements of every person in a car is insane. Have these people never read Orwell? just because we don't live under a Totaletarian state now doesn't mean that one will not arise in the future. next they will be tracking how far you move using the chips in these new ID cards they are going to make us all carry. It may be inoccent now, but Stalin and Hiltler were not that long ago and there are some radical 'Christians' in the US, and idiotic politiacians here in the UK, who i am sure would like to use this technology to track 'terrorists' so they could then incarerate anyone the 'criminals' ever visited for an indefine amout of time without a trial...

Posted by Chris at June 8, 2005 09:35 PM

Unfortunately, they probably have read Orwell as a 'how-to' guide.

Posted by NRT at June 9, 2005 12:11 PM

Think of the benefits though! They could catch every single speeding infraction. No more deaths on the roads!

Posted by Mr. Precision at June 11, 2005 12:05 AM
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