We’re late on this, but Seattlest contributor Brad took the recent Department of Licensing MVET goof to its logical conclusion and pointed out that there’s probably been a hiccup in sales tax collection as well, one that potentially dwarfs the $3 million involved in the MVET program.  Assuming his facts are right, it’s a good point, but one that probably doesn’t have a lot of practical implications.

The only thing I have to add is that there are 95,000 vehicle owners affected by the MVET, which is probably roughly the number of adults in the affected areas.  A 0.4% sales tax figures to cost the median adult about $55 a year and has been collected for 12 years.  That comes out to about $62 million, but that assumes that those relatively rural areas have the same median income as the area as a whole; assumes residents do no shopping in the district proper; and ignores inflation over the past decade.  I think it’s safe to say that the total impact is something substantially less than that figure, so loose talk about “hundreds of millions” is probably not correct.

Given these uncertainties, and other practical difficulties Brad himself points out, I don’t see a practical remedy as simple as that for MVET.  I think sloppy state agencies deserve scolding, as well as legislators who made the district boundary as complicated as possible.  But a figure in the low tens of millions of dollars is serious money, enough to do a freeway ramp or other practical project.  I’d rather use that money to build a project they participated in the vote for than attempt to reconstruct 12 years of purchase records.

But, of course, I would say that.

Photo, taken somewhere East of Sammamish, by Panoramio contributor franklin18136.

8 Replies to “Weekend Tax Rumors”

  1. The sales tax hypothesis is idiotic to the highest order– businesses would be monumentally stupid if they didn’t question this 0.4% tax. The documents they get telling them to increase their tax would have to be ignored. They would ignore the tax listing and apportioning.

    The MVET system is flawed, but only because it requires a lot of obscure mapping that generally gets eyeballed and not determined based on GIS location coding. It’s a futz that needs to be fixed, but mainly the fault of the resident for lack of diligence. It’s somewhat similar to the problems with shopping between Oregon and Washington– technically, Oregonians don’t have to pay tax, but it’s often collected anyway until the error is pointed out. It’s a grey area and requires diligence on the part of the resident themselves.

    1. The other problem is many Oregonians don’t realize the sale tax exemption for Oregon residents doesn’t apply outside of border counties. When I worked in the market I had countless Oregon residents who insisted they didn’t need to pay sales tax. It always lead to an argument. We finally made our prices tax included so we didn’t have to argue with idiots.

    2. Yeah I went to the state’s “find your sales tax” tool right after looking at the Seattlest piece and plugged in a bunch of addresses in those zip codes and got the proper sales tax.

      If you read the seattlest post, he based his sales-tax charging on his MVET charging, and this made sense to him since he runs his business from his home. He didn’t visit the state’s sales tax site.

  2. The think that pieces me off about this whole thing is that the guy obviously rides (rode?) the damned 545. So he’s pissed about paying the tax, while he got to ride the bus that everyone else paid for.

    1. I don’t think that’s a fair categorization.
      1) It’s not the Seattlest author’s (brad) fault that his area isn’t taxed for the 545, you can blame the state legistlature for that, or that he finds the 545 useful. It’s a net benefit to everyone that he ride the 545: one less parking space, one less car on the rode, a little bit less C20 in the air.
      2) It doesn’t seem like Brad complaining about paying the tax. He’s complaining about the shoddy computer infrastructure for finding the right tax for each address.

  3. Completely off-topic…

    What about augmenting the current ferry system with train ferries that provide service to Bainbridge, Kitsap, and the OP?

    Once a short ferry ride to Bainbridge or Kingston, followed by a pleasant ride through a half-dozen towns and into rural country, today the commute is a nightmare, from long waits at the ferry terminal (“guess this one is full, maybe the next boat”) to non-stop congestion all the way up to Port Angeles. I don’t know how commuters put up with it.

    A few years ago, the state had its own predictable solution: solve congestion by building bigger car ferries, whose increased capacity would require bigger ferry terminals, wider access roads to the terminals, and eventually a wider highway all the way up to Port A. Naturally, the ensuing development would not be concentrated in a traditional town setting, but would string along the entire road, a few blocks deep and 70 miles long.

    Some in metropolitan Seattle (such as Ron Sims) saw the Kitsap as an outlet for overcrowding in King County, an odd concept considering that the peninsula is unbridgeable where it is closest to the huge population centers of Puget Sound, while roads to the mainland are only feasible in narrow corridors to the south and west, which are relatively unpopulated. And how would governments sustain initial growth over the long term, given the trickly terrain of what is, after all, a peninsula?

    We already have a budding commuter rail system here on the eastern shores of Puget Sound-one that is slated to grow substantially in capacity-why not augment that with a commuter railway line across Kitsap and the North OP?

    For someone going west, you would take Sounder to either an existing ferry terminal downtown or Mukilteo, or perhaps a new facility in the Port of Seattle. The cars are loaded, jacked up, the ferry makes the short hop across the sound, and the process is reversed. I imagine loading and unloading eight rail cars is a lot faster than loading and unloading 200 cars and trucks, which means trips could be more frequent, wait times non-existent, and travel unimpeded. Better yet, there’s no intermodal change overs once you board the OP commuter train downtown; at the ferry stops, you never have to leave the rail car. Once the train set has been re-organized at Eagledale or Kingston, you’re off to Poulsbo, Port Townsend, Sequim, and Port Angeles.

    Now, I don’t have knowledge of traffic flow studies in those areas, but this approach would seem to
    -bear the majority of commuter traffic
    -handle tourism that is direct to Port Townsend, et. al
    -augment existing ferry and commuter rail systems
    -provide both Kitsap and the OP a sustainable link to the heart of commerce in the state
    -act as an “organizing principle” for development, i.e. development would center around stations, with all the benefits that entails. The west Sound would have its own, toned-down version of the Urban Village concept. This is especially true if places like Port A had their own “small town tram” running in the city center. Imagine old town Port Angeles or Port Townsend with a robust tram circulator…it would be like Savannah, GA on steroids.

    Amazingly for someone who has spent hours in congestion trying to get between Port Angeles and Bainbridge, the actual distance is only 70 miles (roughly)…and that can be quickly and easily traversed by a commuter train with a handful of stops.

    What do you think? All-Aboard the OP commuter…

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