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Oregon May Expand Its Petty Bicycle Tax to Children’s Bikes

9:57 AM PST on March 1, 2018

Nice try, freeloader! Photo: Jonathan Maus/Bike Portland

Oregon taxes bikes. And not just a normal sales tax. We're talking about a special excise tax that applies to bicycles and only bicycles.

Why? Not because the state needs the money.

Lawmakers predict the tax will bring in just $1.2 million a year, not enough to build something of statewide significance, even in the dirt-cheap world of bike infrastructure. The real reason Oregon taxes bikes is because some people resent the idea of making streets safe for cycling. The bike tax is the manifestation of their political will.

The tax was also seen as a way to sweeten the deal for a transportation spending package that bike and transit advocates generally approved of. To bolster the impression that the tax is somehow connected to transportation policy, a provision was included to exempt kids' bikes. But the Oregon Department of Revenue (DOR) thinks that was a bad move.

Now state lawmakers are preparing to expand the tax to include kids' bikes, reports Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland:

As currently written, “taxable bicycle” is defined as a bicycle with a wheel diameter of 26-inches or larger (so as not to tax children’s bikes) and a retail price of $200 or more. DOR’s proposal would drop the wheel-size stipulation from the definition and the tax would then apply to all bikes over $200.

DOR thinks the existing law is too complicated, and lawmakers think that children's bikes mostly cost under $200 anyway. But the bike industry begs to differ, Maus reports:

In a letter dated February 21st, the Director of State and Local Policy for the PeopleForBikes Coalition Alex Logemann, National Bicycle Dealers Association Board Chair Brandee Lepak, and Bicycle Product Suppliers Association President Adam Micklin urged Committee members to maintain the 26-inch wheel diameter requirement.

“Our objection to altering the minimum wheel size requirement is premised on two issues,” they wrote, “1) the new bicycles that will be subject to taxation will primarily be children’s bikes; and 2) it will place an additional burden on bicycle shops that have already invested resources to comply with the tax.”

You'd think the bureaucrats and legislators in Oregon would have more important things to concentrate on than squeezing a few more dollars out of parents buying bicycles for their kids. It is, after all, supposed to be one of the more bike-friendly states. But once you start down the path of resentment-based transportation policy, who knows where it will lead.

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