Filed under: Family Camping, Preparation & Readiness, RVing & the Legal System
How Taxes May Hurt RV Ownership and Family Camping Opportunities
Rob and Sue have two children, a 10 year old girl, and a 12 year old boy. Sue is an elementary school teacher. Rob is a real estate agent. They built their home on a 1 acre lot in 2004 in a rural suburban area of Central Virginia.
Rob and Sue bought a 28’ camper and a Chevy 2500 extended cab pick-up truck to pull the trailer shortly after building their home. They wanted to give their children the same opportunities that they had with their camping parents when they were growing up. Over the past six years, they have enjoyed dozens of camping trips with their two children – many more than they would ever have been able to make without the camper. They have traveled north to Maine and even spent two weeks in Orlando at Disney’s Fort Wilderness.
Rob’s parents owned a Chevrolet class C motor home. He and his brother spent many memorable days camping at the seashore, down by the lake and in the mountains. Camping gave them the opportunity to be together and build a family relationship that might not have occurred if the old motor home was not part of their lives.
Sue’s parents had a Coleman pop-up that they took all the way to the west coast one summer behind a big blue Ford van. Sue has a younger sister and an older brother. She remembers the trip that summer as one that created a close sibling relationship and a bond that is strong even to this day.
Rob and Sue now have their camper and truck for sale.
Like many young families, the economic downturn or recession has taken a toll on family finances. Rob’s real estate sales have dropped 75%. His take home pay from what he is able to sell barely covers the monthly mortgage on their home. Sue’s salary as a teacher has been flat since the economic downturn due to major reductions in the school system’s budget. Meanwhile, their health insurance, fuel, food, and electricity bills have escalated. Apparently, the camper and truck are paid for – which is extremely fortunate for them. But the problem is the reoccurring local personal property taxes being assessed on their camper and trailer.
According to the County Commissioner of Revenue, the combined NADA wholesale value of the camper and truck is $57,000. The county just sent Rob and Sue a bill for $2,195 for personal property taxes on their trailer and truck. This tax is billed every year at the county’s personal property tax rate of $3.85 per each $100 of assessed valuation. This tax is in addition to the annual license plate renewal and the sales tax they paid when they bought the vehicles. Rob and Sue no longer feel like they can afford to keep the camper and truck because of the high reoccurring taxes on the vehicles.
I was immediately struck with both sadness and anger when I learned that they were giving up family camping. The sadness was over the economic downturn that had made life difficult for Rob and Sue and that their children would be denied the opportunities and memories that their parents had given them growing up. The anger was directed at the County for taxing a family recreational vehicle at such a high rate while taxing private airplanes at the local air park only fifty-cents per $100 of valuation. To me there is absolutely no fairness to this antiquated revenue acquisition system.
Across the United States taxes on family recreational vehicles can vary greatly – some localities have no added annual taxes while others can be much higher than the ones I cited. Taxes of this type actually hurt the local economy by deterring RV ownership which creates jobs for both sales and service people that support the local economy through other tax revenues. Families that enjoy the opportunities afforded by camping together may have fewer instances of juvenile problems that can make education and law enforcement more difficult (and expensive). The lack of recreational opportunities for our youth is often cited as a reason for increased community problems.
My take on this taxation system is that once revenue departments start collecting a tax on a particular item or service they are resistant to changing the system. The concept of creating a new revenue stream by eliminating a burdensome or regressive tax appears risky for state or local governments facing the problems of reduced tax revenues from a sagging economy. Truthfully, reducing the personal property tax rate on RVs could expand their ownership and create new jobs and businesses that would offset any tax revenue loss.
All we need is for voters to support local elected officials that have a vision for breaking old tax revenue paradigms. One thing for sure – doing nothing to try and create change will only leave the current systems in place and continue to discourage RV ownership and use by families.
I hate to see Rob and Sue sell their RV. I know their children will not only miss all the great family camping opportunities we grew up with, but it is highly likely that their future children will miss out on them too. Families generally carry on traditions that create great memories that bring them closer together.
So, what is your feeling on this issue?