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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tax and Fee Payments by Motor-Vehicle Users for the Use of Highways, Fuels, and Vehicles: Report #17 in the series: The Annualized Social Cost of Motor-Vehicle Use in the United States, based on 1990-1991 Data


Federal, state, and local governments spend over a hundred billion dollars per year to build and maintain roads and provide a variety of services, such as highway patrol, for motor-vehicle users (see report #7 in the author's social-cost series). To pay for these infrastructure and service expenditures governments do not charge motor-vehicle users a single, explicit, comprehensive price for the use of roadways and motor-vehicle-related services, but rather collect revenue from a variety of taxes and fees ranging from road tolls to motor-fuel taxes to general-fund tax receipts. Some of these taxes and fees, such as road tolls, function like prices on the use of public motor-vehicle infrastructure and service (MVIS); some, like sales tax receipts, are purely general taxes unrelated to motor-vehicle use; and some, like fuel-excise taxes, may be said to be "in-between" a price on the use of MVIS and a general tax on all commodities.

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