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  • Why are motorists so meek about motor tax?

    November 23, 2011 @ 12:12 pm | by Michael McAleer

    A letter from an annoyed motorist complaining about our current tax system raises some questions as to why the Irish public are so stoic when it comes to rising taxes on their motoring transport, yet scream blue murder at the first hint that child benefit will be cut or a charge for septic tanks.

    The car still seems to be perceived as a luxury by some, regardless of its age or state of delapidation. But while that might have been the case in 1950s Ireland, these days most homes don’t use a bicycle as the main mode of transport and if they happen to live a distance away from the bus route, the car is a necessity.

    For many of these families the reason they live in suburbia is often due to budgetary constraints rather than any desire to avoid living in the troublespots of Ballsbridge, Howth or Dalkey. We already know that one-in-five households are struggling with their mortgages, that many are barely able to meet their monthly household bills and that some have already foregone health insurance for the sake of economic survival.

    So when the Government threatens to take €10 off the monthly child allowance the outcry is understandably loud from those on the financial brink. Yet if and when they demand more on motor tax, we get the usual shot of emails from annoyed motoring executives and the PR firms and then a grudging acceptance.  

    In hindsight the change to an emissions-based tax system has been a fiasco in terms of timing. While it served its purpose on the climate change debate, it’s timing could not have been worse. Some claim it was a way of encouraging the industry to move to cleaner cars, but it’s farcical to think that the multi-billion motor industry is going to be pressurised into changing its engineering lines in order to sate the demands of a small island on the west coast of Europe witha new car market smaller than that in Manchester.

    It did, however, succeed in encouraging motorists to change to cleaner cars – at least those who could afford to. The rest – those now in real financial distress – are left to foot the bill for not being able to afford to be cleaner and greener. And even if they do garner the cash to change, they quickly discover that their old car has been decimated with depreciation, because even if it’s on sale for a bargain price of €3,000 or so, it’s still shackled to an annual motor tax bill of nearly €600 or even more. Meanwhile the buyers of new BMW 520ds and the like reap the rewards of their financial ability to buy with a motor tax bill of just €104 a year. How is this in any way equitable?

    With the global motor industry focusing on engine emissions as its number one priority, the gap between new and even five-year old cars is only going to increase. As motor tax is paid on a system of emissions bands that invariably means motorists who can’t afford the latest new models with cleaner technology will have to pick up the bill.

    It seems that environmental concerns over emissions combined with an eagerness to increase tax revenue for the Government is taking precedence over fairness.

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