On a regular basis, a writer to The Sun News' editorial page will advocate, either sincerely or sarcastically, for a tax on utility trailers, and many of these writers earnestly assure us that this will solve all of our money problems.
From every angle, according to these writers, untaxed utility trailers are always an untapped pot of gold that is not being factored into our state’s finances. They are solely responsible for wearing out the asphalt and leaving cavernous potholes in their wake. They are being utilized in a manner that is always unsafe. The lack of a tax on such trailers is why trailers don' have tail lights on them (an unsubstantiated and frequent complaint). The most-recent writer-supporter of this new tax is Dave Rudnicki of Conway, who believes that our state legislators will choose not to tax utility trailers. I had not read or heard that the Columbia crowd had already rejected a tax on these trailers, but I hope they don't even consider it.
Supporters of a utility trailer tax always assure us that a lot of money will be raised in this manner. One previous supporter of such a policy called it a fee, and wrote, with certainty, that the yearly revenue from said fee would be an adequate tradeoff for raising the gas tax, although it is unknown how he arrived a such a financial conclusion. Mr. Rudnicki believes that a $10 or $25 fee wouldn't be a burden, and is a small price to pay in the name of convenience and commerce.
A notable number of the supporters of this scheme have referred to how they “did these things back where we came from.” Many of these writer-supporters retired or relocated to our area, taking advantage of our low, low taxes, only to call for a tax that is unlikely to be assessed on them, but will be assessed on hardworking people.
I'd wager that the supporters of such a tax are not trying to make a living owning and operating a business that needs a utility trailer.
What the supporters of this tax proposal fail to acknowledge – or do not comprehend - is that every one of those transgressing trailers is hitched to a vehicle on which a property tax and vehicle registration has already been paid.
The much-maligned utility trailer cannot propel itself anywhere. What you are proposing is a tax on a tool that a business owner or resident needs to do a job. Would you ask an electrician to pay a usage tax on his drill? Do you want a landscaper to pay a tax on a rake? A homeowner to pay a tax on a tool for hauling yard debris to a landfill, or moving furniture?
Who will determine the age at which sad, old, used-up trailers have achieved a high mileage limit (as happens with automobiles) and can't justifiably be taxed anymore? Since utility trailers don't have odometers, will the lack of paint or presence of rust on a trailer be a factor in depreciating its value? Will a county or state employee need to see the trailer to determine how much of a tax should be applied? Taxing trailers would require a system of vehicle identification numbers, which are usually etched onto a vehicle at a factory, and a means to register and record them. Where will the money for that come from, at $10 each?
This non-issue just prompts more questions than it deserves, but it does not need to be taken seriously by legislators. If you want to increase revenue for the state or this county, there are better ways to do it than taxing the lowly-but-useful utility trailer.
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.