Friday Follies: A Tax Credit for Fixing Your Car

WHEN IT COMES TO TAXES, LAWMAKERS ALWAYS PREFER TO COMPLICATE THINGS

Maintenance of one’s property – whether a house, a boat, or an electric guitar – is the responsibility of the owner. Everybody, we suspect, would agree to that. And yet there is S.566.

S.566 would allow a taxpayer with a vehicle registered in South Carolina to claim a refundable tax credit of up to 150 percent of his spending on vehicle maintenance for that year. Essentially, if a taxpayer spends $100 on vehicle maintenance, he would be able to claim a $150 credit against his income taxes for that year. The limit on this tax credit is 150 percent of the amount of gasoline taxes that the taxpayer paid that year.

This bill is a way to offset any increases in the gas tax that the legislature may pass this session. Nobody should confuse this convoluted credit with tax reduction. It’s not tax relief; it’s another layer of complexity added to an already complex tax structure. If lawmakers want tax reduction, they must spend existing revenue frugally so that no taxes need be raised; S.566 would simply throw another credit into regressive, inefficient, and confusing system.

In short, here’s another example of a bill that’s meant to counteract negative effects of another bill, while adding yet another layer of complexity to the code of laws.

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