The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the nation’s only organization representing professional and small-business truckers, successfully wrapped up a class action lawsuit against New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance on April 19.
The state’s Supreme Court--which is the state’s trial court--ordered that New York pay a total of $44,429,473 for an unconstitutional registration and decal fee.
“We fought against a number of similar taxes back in the 1980s and 1990s and the states lost in every one of those cases,” said OOIDA President Jim Johnston. “We were shocked that New York even thought they could get away with this. The amount for the New York HUT decal is $19, which may seem insignificant, but if other states were to do the same thing, it would be huge--collectively and in administrative costs.”
The association had challenged the taxes as unconstitutional and discriminatory against out-of-state truckers who drive their trucks mostly in other states--in contrast to New York-based truckers who drive a disproportionately higher number of miles in New York. OOIDA established that the challenged taxes resulted in a higher per mile tax rate being imposed on out-of-state trucks, and therefore violated the Commerce Clause.
The class action lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of taxes that impose $15 for a certificate of registration and a $4 decal charge on all trucks using New York state highways. The taxes are imposed not only on New York-based trucks, which are driven proportionately higher miles in New York, but were also charged on trucks based outside of New York, which are driven mostly in states other than New York.
“If there are other states that think tacking on flat fees to their state truck taxes won’t be noticed as an economic burden to interstate commerce, they need to understand this is not a good idea,” said Johnston. “We will take them to court in a heartbeat.”