Watson takes aim at heavy vehicle taxes

New ATA chair calls for Canberra to take heed of NTC finding on overcharging

Watson takes aim at heavy vehicle taxes
ATA Chair Noelene Watson

Australian Trucking Association Chair Noelene Watson has called for an end to seven years of mispricing of the national tax take from heavy transport.

In her first political intervention in her new role and with the Coalition’s first Budget looming, Watson renewed the ATA’s offensive against the assumptions underpinning trucking tax policy, pointing out that the National Transport Commission (NTC) concluded in November that the current charging system would overtax trucks and buses by $232 million in 2014-15.

"There were 496,000 heavy vehicles registered in Australia in June 2013," Watson says.

"That figure comes straight from the state and territory registration systems. But the current system for calculating our charges assumes there are only 420,000 heavy vehicles.

"As a result, every vehicle – and every operator – ends up paying too much in fuel tax and registration charges.

"The NTC put forward a series of options for fixing the charging system. Under what it called option A, operators would be able to claim an extra 1.04 cents per litre in fuel tax credits through their business activity statements. This would effectively be a reduction in their fuel tax. Some truck registration charges would fall.

"Governments need to accept the umpire’s decision. The NTC has confirmed that trucking operators are overcharged: they need to agree to cut registration charges and increase our fuel tax credits by 1.04 cents per litre from 1 July 2014."

Watson dismisses the argument that the reduction in truck charges should be phased in over three years.

"The trucking industry has paid too much tax for the last seven years. It’s a bit rich for people to argue that we should pay too much tax for another three years as well."

The ATA wants the Heavy Vehicle Charges and Investment (HVCI) Reform process stopped.

"HVCI is looking at mass-distance-location pricing, which would see trucks fitted with regulatory GPS devices. Trucking operators would receive elaborate invoices based on where their trucks went, how far they travelled and an assessment of their mass," Watson says.

"HVCI’s proposal is utterly inconsistent with the Australian Government’s commitment to reducing red tape and the regulatory burden on small businesses."

She also tapped into the current broader debate on charging the public for road use, warning that truck mass-distance-location pricing would, if introduced, be used to justify direct road pricing for cars, including congestion charges in major cities.

"The Deloitte report on road pricing and transport infrastructure funding, released this week, argued that heavy vehicle charging would be a trial run for imposing direct pricing and time of day charges on car drivers and tradies’ utes," Watson says.

"Instead of working up complex new charging systems, governments should set road charges at a fair level and concentrate on improving how road agencies plan and build roads.

"As the first step, governments need to accept the NTC’s advice, recognise that the trucking industry is overcharged, and agree to NTC option A with an increase in fuel tax credits of 1.04 cents per litre from 1 July 2014."

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