Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 4, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

UNCLE SAM WANTS YOU TO BUY AN SUV....Over at Slate, Andy Bowers notices something odd: many California cities, including Pasadena and Beverly Hills, ban trucks over 6,000 pounds from all residential streets. Larger cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, ban them from some residential streets.

But what about SUVs? There are lots of SUVs out there that weigh more than 6,000 pounds and are classified as heavy trucks. Shouldn't they be banned as well? Heh heh.

Now, by itself, this would be sort of an amusing gotcha, but not much more. However, there's also this, which I didn't know:

It's no accident the automakers churn out so many SUVs that break the 6K barrier. By doing so, these "trucks" (and that's how they're classified by the U.S. Department of Transportation) qualify for a huge federal tax break. If you claim you use a 3-ton truck exclusively for work, you can write it off immediately. All of it. Up to $100,000 (in fact, Congress raised the limit from $25,000 just last year).

This exemption was passed in 2003 and it means what it says: if you're self-employed as a lawyer and you commute to your office in your BMW X5, you can write it off as a business expense as long as this accounts for more than 50% of the miles you drive. No need to depreciate it over five years or anything like that. You can write the whole thing off in a single year.

But as this site helpfully points out, you have to follow the rules: "First, Pick Out a Suitably Heavy Machine." Buy a Ford Taurus and you don't qualify.

Your tax dollars at work.

POSTSCRIPT: Yes, the real issue here is that SUVs are classified as trucks. Every problem that Bowers writes about would go away if they were classified as cars, as they should be. Of course, then they'd be subject to federal gas mileage rules, and we can't have that, can we?

Kevin Drum 5:53 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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