Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« The Comcast Debate | Re: Flexcar Tax »

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Flexcar Tax Hike Back On

posted by on October 24 at 14:22 PM

Flexcar, the car-sharing service, will have to charge the state rental-car tax after all. According to the Flexcar member newsletter, the company “made important progress in educating the Department of Revenue on why car-sharing is different from traditional car rental” but couldn’t work out a non-legislative fix. So, starting in November, Seattle-area Flexcar users will have to pay a rental-car tax of 9.7 percent, bringing the total tax on Flexcar users to 18.7 percent.

Flexcar says they’re looking for a legislative fix. As we’ve reported, state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36) is working on legislation that would exempt Flexcar from the tax. But given that most of Flexcar’s users live in the dense 43rd District (which includes Capitol Hill and parts of downtown, Eastlake, Wallingford, Fremont, and Ravenna), we’d like to see Sen. Ed Murray and the 43rd’s two representatives, Jamie Pedersen and Frank Chopp, stand up for Flexcar users and join Kohl-Welles in working to repeal this unfair tax.

RSS icon Comments


This is ridiculous. I'd like to see the state add an exemption for drivers who consume a couple of drinks in Ballard before returning their car. Intoxication, Not Taxation!

Posted by DOUG. | October 24, 2007 2:33 PM

Explain again why if I rent an Enterprise car I should pay a car rental tax but if I rent a Flexcar I shouldn't have to pay it. Maybe we should exempt the most high mileage cars (not Minis) which make even the evil vistors more likely to use less polluting cars.

Posted by whatever | October 24, 2007 2:39 PM

I'd like to see a license for us to have gas guzzlers sent to scrap yards when they get ticketed, actually.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 24, 2007 2:42 PM

Frank Chopp really couldn't give a crap about most issues that matter to his district, as far as I can tell, so I doubt he'll do anything about this one.

Posted by exelizabeth | October 24, 2007 2:53 PM

As you may know I obtained state funding for flex car in the past. Surprise! I have been working with staff and the governor's on a solution! You could have asked!

Posted by Ed Murray | October 24, 2007 3:14 PM

Senator Ed Murray: Are you saying that the folks at FlexCar have NOT contacted you on this issue?

Posted by DOUG. | October 24, 2007 3:17 PM

@2, did you miss the [i]car-sharing is different from traditional car rental[/i] concept? if you cannot figure it out on your own, you should check it out...

Posted by infrequent | October 24, 2007 3:28 PM

apparently i missed the difference between "[i]" and "...

Posted by infrequent | October 24, 2007 3:31 PM

@2 - The purpose of the rental car tax is to target visitors, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to tax Flexcar members who are predominantly Seattle residents. Flexcar members also have to pay state and local sales tax, so adding the rental car tax means an hour of car sharing will be taxed at 18.6%.

Posted by it's me | October 24, 2007 3:32 PM

what, XML doesn't work either? how about this:


Posted by infrequent | October 24, 2007 3:32 PM

I was referring to The Stranger. The Flex car people and their supporters have been great to work with.

Posted by Ed Murray | October 24, 2007 3:36 PM

SURE - the state should favor one company over another and give up many more millions in legitimate taxes cause --- Erica said so.

Ed tell us - does not the constitution hold some issues about helping people selectively?

And this is a privately owned company. And despite the PR con, they rent cars by the hour at street sites using computer systems. STILL nothing more than an innovative rental car.

Don't exempt them in my opinion, treat them like all businesses, one playing field.

(Owned by billionaire investors by the way, hardly home spun. And used 50 percent by business, putting the delivery folks out of business. You don't Bucky anything, the gofers does it with a Flex. Fast, cheap and easily tracked.) We use them twice, three times a day at my office.

Erica, I thought you were 100 per cent bike ...

Posted by Essex | October 24, 2007 4:05 PM

It's me @ 9

The purpose of the rental car tax is to target visitors, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to tax Flexcar members who are predominantly Seattle residents. Flexcar members also have to pay state and local sales tax, so adding the rental car tax means an hour of car sharing will be taxed at 18.6%.

Boo fucking hoo! If my car goes into the shop for a few days and I use Enterprise as a rental I pay the rental car tax, which is a bullshit tax that politicians have sold as "only affecting visitors to the area" to pay for useless crap such as sports stadia. If FlexCar had their way I could use their service and not pay this tax. What's the difference? FlexCar is trying to get special rights for themselves, they're a fucking car rental service, calling them a "car sharing" service doesn't change a damned thing. Rather than trying to get special exemptions for FlexCar FlexCar supporters should be trying to get rid of the car rental tax, which again, is a dishonest tax sold by dishonest politicians to stupid voters who want to get other people to pay for their pet projects and to level the playing field to make the option of temporarily renting a car more affordable from any company, not just those leftist darlings of the week at FlexCar.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | October 24, 2007 4:09 PM

"the purpose of the tax is to tax visitors"

Um, then why is there a restaurant tax too?

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 24, 2007 4:25 PM

Wile E.: Actually, I pay an annual fee to belong to Flexcar. I can't just go and use any carsharing company's services. It's a membership-based organization that promotes the (laudable, I hope you'll agree) goal of reducing the number of cars on the road. We provide incentives for other things that get cars off the road, like transit. Flexcar users shouldn't have to pay a penalty for doing something that benefits everybody on the road.

Posted by ECB | October 24, 2007 4:27 PM

Um, hello? FlexCar is different, OK? Rental cars cause air pollution and emit greenhouse gases, in case you forgot.

Not to mention that somebody could get killed when people drink and then try to drive a rental car.

Posted by elenchos | October 24, 2007 4:28 PM

Oh, thanks Erica, I forgot the part about getting cars off the road:

If I drive a rental car or regular car from point A to point B, that adds to the traffic problems. But if I take the same trip in a FlexCar, that's one less car on the road.

It's so simple it almost doesn't need to be said.

Posted by elenchos | October 24, 2007 4:32 PM

I'm sure frank chopp will look out for us on this one - as @12 said business uses flexcar and I don't think chopp ever met a business he didn't like.

It is stupid that flexcar users get nailed with extra taxes - I'm sure we will get the legislation through soon...

Posted by kinkos | October 24, 2007 4:43 PM

@13- You seem inordinately upset here. No one in their right mind would borrow a Flexcar for a day. It doesn't make any sense. It would cost me $77.00 a day to "rent" a Flexcar, while quotes cars for as little as $28.49 a day. Rather, Flexcars are used by the hour, and members are willing to pay for the convenience of having a car they can borrow parked a few blocks away. Flexcar members also pay a one time fee to join in addition to an annual fee, because guess what, it's a CAR SHARING ORGANIZATION, not a fucking rental car outfit. The next time your car breaks down I hope you don't fix it and join Flexcar, then even though you might be subject to the rental car tax, you won't have to pay for car tabs, maintenance, insurance, or gas, and I bet you'll be a happier person because you also won't be stuck in traffic so often, which I hear is very stressful.

Posted by it's me | October 24, 2007 4:50 PM

they want to increase a tax on rental cars for a reason -- you might not agree with that reason, but a reason exists nonetheless. that reason does not apply to users of flexcar. this provides a large rationality for treating flexcar differently.

in addition, it is not a rental serive, it is a share service. there are differences between apartments, condos, and co-ops. just because you can live in any of them, and they are all in a building that does not make them the same.

finally, we should encourage behavior that is beneficial. those using flexcar have made a commitment to better behavior.

Posted by infrequent | October 24, 2007 4:54 PM

LOL@16, 17. Thank you, elenchos. So what does e.g. Hertz need to do to cash in here, exactly? If they offer a membership plan of some sort, are they exempt from taxation? Is that the only thing standing between this being a giveaway to one private company at the expense of others?

Posted by tsm | October 24, 2007 5:05 PM

@21 it is not a giveaway to any company. those taxes are paid by the users only. not the company at all.

it only makes it less likely for people to use a company, and it does not makes them more likely to use a different car company.

Posted by infrequent | October 24, 2007 5:11 PM

@21 Seriously?

Seriously, I think they should sell car insurance, MVET, road taxes and everything else at the gas pump. The more you drive, the more you pay. Simple.

Because after all, FlexCars pollute, get struck in traffic, add to said traffic, and take up parking spaces. The main advantage they have is that users have a clear incentive to drive less because each trip saved is money saved. Not so with monthly car insurance or yearly taxes.

Ontario has socialized car insurance, you know. You just don't buy it by the gallon, which we could do.

Posted by elenchos | October 24, 2007 5:14 PM

Here we see the corporate con on high brow stupid consumers. God, this is just beyond belief.

Flex Car, which I use, is a rental car system, period. Hourly rates, street pickup and computer booking. Period.

All the marketing slogans do not change facts. Car sharing, jeez, all rental cars are shared. THAT is the idea.

What a con, and illegal to boot. Corporate welfare is the term, and right in your face and on your block.

The city needs to relabel parking meters as carbon reducers and raise rates.

Tow trucks can become, well something about getting cars off the streets.

Did I mention Flexcar is a private owned corp. owned by the guy who started AOL ... Erica, your capitalist very rich guy pig - homophobe from the past - role model I guess.

And, they charge annual fees, so you pay them to take your consumer dollars. Oh, have the gullible been had.

Posted by Essex | October 24, 2007 5:38 PM

Essex, how would this be corporate welfare? The tax in question is levied against the individual user, so a tax break for flexcar users would be a tax break for those individuals and not for flexcar itself. An exemption would not involve giving state money to flexcar nor reducing the taxes flexcar itself has to pay. So how is it corporate welfare in any traditional sense?

True a tax exemption would probably indirectly help flexcar's business because I the user may drive a little less often if & when the new tax is added. But this is an indirect benefit, like street beautification improving pedestrian traffic in an area and thus indirectly helping retail businesses in that area. We don't call that corporate welfare, do we?

Posted by ben | October 24, 2007 5:54 PM

I told you back when he was elected that Jamie Pedersen is a big-money tool and that he's not going to stick up for us with issues like these, because we don't fill his war chest.

Posted by Gomez | October 24, 2007 5:56 PM
True a tax exemption would probably indirectly help flexcar's business because I the user may drive a little less often if & when the new tax is added.
Duh. Ya think? Probably would kind of help FlexCar out. In a way.

Maybe that's why restaurants don't like the restaurant tax and hotels don't like the hotel tax. If you effectively raise the price of their product, consumers are less likely to buy it.

And, yes, if they city only beautified the street in front of Nordstrom but not in front of mom & pop's , then that would be corporate welfare for Nordstrom.

Posted by elenchos | October 24, 2007 6:06 PM

...What? Oh. The city does work harder on Nordstrom's street than for a bunch of nobodies?


Posted by elenchos | October 24, 2007 6:11 PM

Flexcar unlike other rental car clubs (they all have membership programs) gets direct subsidies from the state, the county and the city. We should offer the same incentives to all car rental companies - money, free on-street parking (in some locations) - maybe we'd have competing neighborhood hourly car rentals.

It does seem that Erica and Josh drive more because Flexcar is available. In general Flexcar increases the on-street parking available. If twenty people share one car instead of owning twenty cars and parking them on the street, it leaves more spots encouraging regular drivers. So you should't get rid of your car when you join FC. Just park it and move it every three days thereby making it less pleasant for others to drive.

Does Enterprise still come pick you up? $28 plus sales and rental car tax.

Posted by whatever | October 24, 2007 7:32 PM

#26You are full of yourself. Jamie is in the same position all the legislators are - must change the constitution of Washington to allow the state to give breaks to enrich business at the expense of the state, ie. citizens - to single them out for favors at the expense of taxpayers and revenue and resources. Very strict in this state, litigated many times..

Your review of Jamie's career is shallow and silly ass partisan. He is viewed as one of the freshman stars in Olympia. I know several legislators and they both said the same thing - thank god Seattle has Jamie in that he is a real fighter. And very hard worker, fast study and loyal Democrat.

Flex Car can make lots of profit without all the pandering from the city, county and state. Giving away tax revenue just so they can prosper is classic Republican style corporate welfare. Good product makes good profits, tax breaks make more profit, etc.

If their rental club did not have to pay the same tax as AVIS and Hertz, it is like a take the cash of the state enrichment.

All this hype about how nifty the idea is true - but - the con is it is just new words to market an old product, renting cars. Some very well paid PR firm came up with Car Sharing, rent by the hour, and stash the cars in lots of neighborhood places with computer check in and out (classic self service in a city that is mucho OK with that, even better).

It is flourishing in about ten cities.

Another issue - in King County the rental car tax is a legal contract in that the tax revenue from that tax that was imposed goes to pay bonds. I think it gets hard/icky to exempt some sector covered by the Stadium tax and not all. And most likely would be a major breach of faith with the bond holders who have every reason to expect ALL that tax go to pay the outstanding bonds.

It is a Stranger tempest in a teapot.

I used a Flex this afternoon, cheaper than a taxi, cross town and back, 9.00 for 40 minutes, and there are three cars nearby and a dozen within three blocks. C. Hill is saturated with them.

They are only a bargain for short rental, but also it is quick and no lines and no parking problems. Great plan for C. Hill folks and businesses FOR short time rentals.

The cars are often mussy inside, people are pigs, but new and great mechanical shape. Vans and pick ups too, many fewer, but popular.

Posted by Freddy | October 24, 2007 9:56 PM

Geez Erica ya just want everything for free don't you. I'm sure that you probably bitch to your friends about the annual fee that you're required to pay for Flex Car. Have you ever thought about where those taxes go? What those taxes are needed for? You really are a selfish me me me person the way your whining comes off. Would you like to experience real socialism? There is a 8:30 am departure on Aeromexico tomorrow morning with a change in Mexico City. You'll be in Caracas just in time for dinner.

Posted by Turner | October 25, 2007 11:47 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).