Op-Ed: Industry Should Join NBTA's Anti-Tax Fight

Congratulations to the National Business Travel Association for launching the first summit of car rental suppliers to actively do something about the current taxation-without-representation condition that is out of control on car rental pricing. All of us for years have been complaining about the excessive city, state and federal taxes and passenger facility charges that have been arbitrarily slapped onto car rental prices, making the consumer—and, most importantly, Corporate America—fund everything from stadiums to uniforms with hardly any of it allocated for transportation, airport or facility improvement.

Quite frankly, travel is an easy target for taxation because we have not yet been able to coalesce as an industry to effectively convince officials that it is bad policy to raise revenue by targeting the business and leisure traveler. Local and federal bureaucrats are piling taxes onto Corporate America because we have not been able to speak with one voice and raise our objections collectively.

The recent NBTA summit, which brought together all the right players on the car rental tax issue, is the first step. Through its position as the voice of corporate travel, its grassroots membership and chapter structure throughout the country, we can finally start to speak as an industry to bring financial relief to all direct and allied members. I've learned and experienced that in order to make positive inroads on Capitol Hill, a political action committee fund and legislative lobbying brings results—not white papers and industry panel forums.

Once we've seen a series of successes on car rental taxes, I would envision a similar approach to addressing the skyrocketing taxes on air travel and hotel stays. Travel managers feel the bottom-line impact of these taxes and passenger facility charges. Suppliers want collection relief so they no longer have to bear the burden of collecting and submitting the money to the government. I would fully expect NBTA to continue its leadership in this area, which truly illustrates the value and power of being a member of an association. Remember, all of these taxes and PFCs currently add more than 26 percent to the price of business travel, higher than what is taxed on cigarettes and alcohol. Business travel should not be a cash register for our branches of government, nor should it be taxed at a higher rate than liquor and tobacco!

What can we do? Your company has lobbyists in Washington—contact them and let them know of the taxes affecting business travel. Give them as much data as you can and ask them to include taxes on business travel as part of their agenda. If you can, provide your lobbyists the approximate tax amount that your company is currently paying on business travel. Let your lobbyists know NBTA is already working on these issues, then follow up with them on a regular basis to see how you can help or partner your efforts through NBTA. By working your association membership and your internal contacts, you can help create a vehicle and voice that will deter legislators from viewing our industry as a silent cash register and doormat for fundraising.

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