D.C. Fee Structure Needs to be Studied

WI Staff | 5/23/2012, 4:22 p.m.

It has long been the case that District residents and businesses have one of the nation's heaviest tax burdens. This is the result of the city's inability to tax the majority of its land and a governing U.S. Congress that will not let the D.C. Council institute a commuter tax, which could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

As a result, the District is left to levying property, sales, income and other types of taxes to meet its needs. Another device that is being used is the fee.

A fee is a fixed sum charged by an institution or by law, for a privilege. Historically, in the District, fees were assessed by agencies to pay for the administrative costs of a service or license.

Presently, fees are used for revenue enhancement. An example is the Department of Motor Vehicle's road test cancellation fee. If a resident has to cancel a driver's road test and does not give a 48-hour notice, a $10 fee is assessed. If the test has to be missed because of an emergency, the fee is still assessed.

There are many fees that the District government imposes on home owners, businesses and residents that have nothing to do with government services and more to do with obtaining more revenue for the city.

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown recently said that he is thinking about forming a panel to study the city's fee system. He should do this.

District residents and businesses already pay enough, and unnecessary fees do not make the city enticing to new businesses and prospective residents.