Car rental agencies and cities get ready to go head-to-head over taxes again

Ready for Round 2 of car rental companies vs. cities?

You might recall the opening salvo two years ago, when then-Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) introduced the End Discriminatory State Taxes for Automobile Renters Act of 2009. The law, backed by car rental companies, would have limited the excise taxes that a municipality could levy on the agencies’ vehicles. Cities fought the measure, saying that it would limit their ability to raise money and that it represented an unwanted federal intrusion.

What’s that? You don’t remember any of it?

Well, here’s something you probably can remember: your last car rental bill.

Drew Tipton does. His 18-hour Avis rental at Chicago O’Hare cost $61. Then Avis added an 11 percent concession recovery, an $8-per-day mileage surcharge, an $8-a-day customer facility charge, a license fee of $1.25 per day and a 20 percent tax, and – ka-ching! – suddenly his rental fee had ballooned, to $97.

I remember my last rental, two weeks from Thrifty in San Francisco last month. The base rate was $693, and I paid $300 for optional insurance. But once the company was done with me, I’d paid a total of $1,276, including a $24 tourism surcharge, an airport concession recovery fee of $114 and $85 in taxes.
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America’s taxing destinations: Cities that sock it to travelers

Which American cities impose the highest discriminatory travel taxes on lodging, car rentals, and meals? A new survey by EconFirst Associates and the NBTA Foundation reveals the answers, and you probably won’t guess the winner — I mean, loser.

Did you say Portland, Ore.? If you did, it’s either a lucky guess, or you get around, or you live there. P-Town’s discriminatory taxes against travelers added up to a whopping $21.55 a night. (Discriminatory taxes are calculated by excluding general sales taxes to count only taxes that target car rentals, hotel stays and meals.)
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