A wheel tax is a vehicle registration fee commonly used on automobiles generally less than 8000 pounds in the United States by some cities and counties. The problem that a wheel tax attempts to solve is that many people come into a community from outside to work and, as a result, use the community's roads, water, sewer, and so forth, but pay no taxes into the community as a result of living outside of the municipality. It is an example of a problem in governance sometimes called the free rider problem. The tax is charged to motorists based upon the vehicle's weight, and it is often collected at the time of annual vehicle registration renewals. A proposed wheel tax in Omaha was $50 per year.
Proponents have argued that wheel taxes are fair since persons who drive into a community without paying taxes to that specific community contribute to the wear-and-tear of public roadways, and therefore they should pay for the upkeep. Critics of wheel taxes have argued that wheel taxes are not fair since they are an example of taxation without representation since the people taxed have no political representation within the community.
Chicago has a wheel tax, which is actually a registration fee that is imposed on city residents and businesses, rather than outsiders. Many suburbs of Chicago such as Evanston have also adopted residents-only vehicle registration fees (also called a wheel tax by some of the municipalities). Enforcement of the collection of registration fees has sometimes been expedited by the use of cameras. Authorities can search car registration records to identify what city a car's registered owner lives in, and can issue a tax based on that information.
- Walters, Steven (August 25, 2014). "The State of Politics: The Battle Over the Wheel Tax". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
- Bob Seidenberg,, Chicago Sun-Times, Evanston will still require wheel tax, but no sticker, Retrieved Sept. 3, 2014, "...owners of all vehicles registered through the Illinois Secretary of State to an Evanston address were required to pay an annual wheel tax, ..."
- Associated Press, January 27, 2011, Boston Globe, Neb. senators debate bill aimed at Omaha wheel tax, Retrieved Sept. 3, 2014, "...Omaha's ordinance, passed last year, imposes the $50 tax on people who live elsewhere but work inside Omaha city limits..."
- 2016, City of Chicago, Office of the City Clerk, , Retrieved Mar 27, 2016, "All Chicago residents ..."
- September 17, 1998, Pat Clawson, Chicago Tribune, Wheel Tax Sought On Business Vehicles, Retrieved Sept. 3, 2014, "..The wheel tax, which ranges from $22 to $160 a year depending on the size of the vehicle, helps fund road repairs....."
- Chris Walker, March 26, 2013, Chicago Tribune, New cameras use software to enforce vehicle tax, Retrieved Sept. 3, 2014