TAX FILE: Highway taxes tilt two ways

The Office of Management and Budget updated its estimates for federal receipts in mid-July. The new figures show more revenue than previously expected

The Office of Management and Budget updated its estimates for federal receipts in mid-July. The new figures show more revenue than previously expected from the 12% excise tax on truck and tractor sales and from the heavy vehicle use tax, but lower revenue from the gasoline and diesel taxes. The higher truck taxes result from the heavy “pre-buying” of trucks in anticipation of the new 2007 engine and fuel standards. The highway use tax pickup reflects improved compliance, stemming from a 2005 requirement that the full tax, rather than just the first installment, be paid at time of registration. The lower fuel tax receipts show that high fuel prices have brought about some conservation.

Unfortunately, conservation means that state trust funds that rely on fuel taxes are likely to run short of money, just as highway construction costs are soaring. Consequently, there will be heightened pressure when legislatures meet in 2007 to raise some state highway taxes to make up for the shortfalls.

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