Dutch first in Europe to pay car tax by kilometer

The Dutch government has approved a bill to impose a tax on drivers for every kilometer they are on the road, which it says will reduce traffic jams, fatal accidents and carbon emissions.

Rather than an annual road tax for their cars, drivers will soon pay a few cents for every kilometer (mile) on the road, in a plan aimed at breaking chronic traffic jams and cutting carbon emissions, the Cabinet decided Friday.

Beginning in 2012, drivers of an average passenger car will pay euro0.03 per 1 kilometer (7 US cents per mile). But annual road taxes and purchase tax for new cars will be abolished, reducing the cost of a new car by 25 percent.

The Netherlands has one of the most burdened road networks in Europe, with traffic jams likely at dozens of places virtually throughout the day. Hourly broadcasts report where the traffic is snarled, but often few alternatives exist to escape the highways.

The government says nearly six out of 10 drivers will benefit under the system, which shifts the tax burden to people who drive the most and at peak hours. Congestion is expected to be halved and carbon emissions cut 10 percent.

Friday’s decision said the tax will increase every year until 2018, and drivers of larger cars will pay more.

The road tax imposed by Minister Camiel Eurlings (CDA) is not to reduce traffic jams, but let the Dutch working class pay more and citizens in outlying areas will also be more affected. The plan to equip all cars with a “spy box” that transmits every kilometer, has led to a storm of criticism.

The ministry said, however, the information collected by GPS would be “legally and technically protected,” and the data would not be accessible to the government for other purposes. “The privacy of road users is protected,” it said.

The kilometer tax has been debated for 20 years, raising other concerns that it would intrude on privacy. The GPS monitoring system could be a test case for other countries weighing options for easing crowded roads.

photo by: arderwiek

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