ACRA Weighs in on Florida Excise Tax

In the opinion piece listed below, ACRA President Bob Barton concurs with the Coalition Against Discriminatory Car Rental Taxes in opposition to a proposed doubling of the car rental tax in Florida.

Letter to the Editor:

This letter is in response to the Press Release issued on Nov. 5, 2009 by the Coalition Against Discriminatory Car Rental Taxes, entitled, “Growing Coalition Continues to Speak Out on Behalf of Florida Car Rental Customers.”

The aspect of doubling car rental excise taxes in Florida to help fund the rail system is not only alarming, but if enacted, will deter tourism, one of the largest industries and employers of the state. What the Florida Legislature is suggesting is that non-resident consumers should bear the financial burden of a budgetary shortfall, which is simply not acceptable. The fact is the local government should be looking for ways to enact a tax policy that will spread the burden to all who benefit from the rail system.

Moreover, these car rental excise taxes are unfair and create a huge financial burden on a large volume of local residents, particularly young adults who cannot afford to operate their own vehicles, as well as local businesses. The local resident whose primary vehicle is being serviced will also be subject to such taxation.

As we have stated before, the underlying problem is NOT what the fees are relative to the rental car facility, but the constant compounding by state and local officials of taxation that has nothing to do with car rental or our customers. These non-constituent imposed taxes are local government’s way of collecting taxes from the non-voting public, and sadly, the tourist pays the bills and has no voice.

We have witnessed many examples in the past two years in this difficult economy where government obligations are not being adequately funded due to reduced revenue streams. A funding of this rail system will very likely fall into this same situation. Then the government will tax others - not to fund the rail system, but to meet the government obligation.

If the answer is taxation, tax the rider, the person utilizing the service. The reason this is not being considered is it has already been said projected usage will drop if the fare is too high. In other words, the rail system is not sustainable on its own without a permanent subsidy.

Florida has a serious budget crisis taking place. The last thing the state needs is another project that has the very real potential of becoming another obligation.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert M. Barton, President
American Car Rental Association

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