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Oregon bike tax revenue ticks up, but still short of expectations

Posted by on December 17th, 2019 at 2:14 pm

New bikes at Willamette Mountain Mercantile in Oakridge. (Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The latest receipts from Oregon’s bicycle excise tax show that revenue is still lower than lawmakers hoped for.

The $15 tax on new bicycles was one of several taxes passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2017 to raise revenue for transportation projects and programs. It went into effect on January 1st, 2018 and is collected at retail shops at the point of sale. It applies to all bicycles with a value of $200 and over. As part of the law, retailers must file quarterly returns with the Department of Revenue (DOR).

According to DOR, they collected about $500,000 in bike tax revenue during the 2018 calendar year. As of October 2019, they report payments so far this year of about $724,000.

These numbers show an uptick, but the totals fall short of the $1.2 million per year figure lawmakers were given prior to voting on the tax.

DOR also shared with us that so far there are 182 active bike tax accounts (retailers). That’s up from 111 that had registered as of March 2018.

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(Source: Department of Transportation Revenue Forecast)

When we last checked in on these numbers just five months after the tax went into effect, the cost to collect the tax was 61% of the total. DOR says that’s to be expected with a new tax and they expect annual collection costs to be in the $20,000 to $30,000 range starting in 2020.

The bike tax was one of three new taxes passed in 2017. In total, the State of Oregon estimates they’ll bring in $343 million per biennium by 2025. A payroll tax to pay for transit is the largest source of new revenue and is estimated to provide $217 million in the 2019-2021 biennium. Taxes on new cars and trucks will chip in about $80 million. The bike tax is tiny by comparison and is forecast to only generate $700,000 per year by 2025.

Bike tax revenue goes into the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Multimodal Active Transportation Fund. This fund was created in 2019 and was created by using 7% of Connect Oregon funds (an existing, Lottery-funded grant program) plus revenues from the bike tax.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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49 Comments
  • Avatar
    Phil December 17, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    I forgot we had passed this stupid tax. I’m glad my recent online bike purchase wasn’t assessed a tax.

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    el timito December 17, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Interestingly, a speaker at the PSU/PBOT Traffic and Transportation class stated that if you pay property tax of, say, $3000 in Portland, only $17 goes to the City for transportation.
    So when I recently bought a $550 bike I paid about the same in transportation taxes that my wife and I pay for our home.
    Good thing I don’t buy a bike every year – my transportation taxes would double!
    (Of course, the bike tax does not go directly to Portland’s roads.)

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      David Hampsten December 17, 2019 at 3:59 pm

      Last spring I bought a $397 mountain bike from Performance as the shop was going out of business, which I paid the usual 6.75% NC sales tax = $26.80 most of which was subsequently spent on expanding our freeways. Boy I wish I was still living in Oregon, I would have had to only pay $15.

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    rick December 17, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    This tax does nothing for orphan urban highways.

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    Shuppatsu December 17, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Do they explain why the numbers have fallen short? Were the numbers BS to begin with? Are bike shops not assessing the taxes? Are bike shops seeing a slump in sales? If so, is the slump attributable to the tax or is it consistent with nationwide figures?

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      David Hampsten December 17, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      Questions I’d add to yours:
      – How easy is it for an Oregonian to evade the tax?
      – Are e-bike sales at motorcycle shops affected?
      – How is the tax collected for online sales?

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        BradWagon December 30, 2019 at 11:50 am

        Q1: Very, go online.
        Q3: See Q1.

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          BradWagon December 30, 2019 at 11:51 am

          I guess I should say, go online to a seller not based in Oregon. REI for example has implemented the Tax for online sales.

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    SD December 17, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Could you remind us of the administrative costs associated with this tax? Thanks

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    Eric H December 17, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    But we got “skin in the game” and “seats at the table” now though, right?

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      mark December 18, 2019 at 7:48 am

      We’re seated at the folding card table with the children.

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    Todd Boulanger December 17, 2019 at 3:59 pm

    The “gap” is all those lost bike sales of scofflaw Oregon bike buyers crossing into neighbouring states to buy their bike free of Oregon taxes. 😉

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      Shuppatsu December 17, 2019 at 4:57 pm

      I don’t think people are going to different states to avoid a $15 tax, especially with WA no longer allowing exemptions for sales tax.

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        Jason H December 17, 2019 at 7:05 pm

        You can request a sales tax refund from the Wa. Dept of Revenue, but it’s now after the fact not at point of sale. Also, they put lots of hoops to jump through, such as the online form and documentation, that you can only use it once per year per person and the state tax has to be above $25 for the purchase to qualify.

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        buzz December 17, 2019 at 9:48 pm

        sorry but u missed the joke

        🙂

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    Todd Boulanger December 17, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    Does that list of registered bike retailers include the big box retailers? (There should be some of their adult bikes triggering the $200 threshold.)

    And the article mentions a cost estimate of collection, but this does not include the cost to the the retailer to collect it (I assume).

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    The Dude December 17, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    This Oregonian will never buy a bike in Oregon again.

    If you enjoy riding your bike, this should be one in a long series of clues that Oregon Democrats are basically Republicans.

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      matte December 17, 2019 at 5:28 pm

      What about supporting local businesses????

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      David Hampsten December 17, 2019 at 6:14 pm

      What I find fascinating is how many people are either willing to drive to an adjacent state and pay for gas, their time, and local sales tax for a bike, or else happily order online and pay for shipping, insurance, and the time needed for assembly, just to avoid the $15 fee. It make no economic sense whatsoever.

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        SE Rider December 18, 2019 at 6:13 am

        Who pays for shipping any more? And insurance?

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        BradWagon December 30, 2019 at 11:52 am

        I bought online because no store in Oregon had what I was looking for, avoiding the tax was icing on the cake.

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      Chris I December 18, 2019 at 8:11 am

      So you’d rather go over to Vancouver and pay $90 in sales tax on a $1000 bike?

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    Middle of the Road Guy December 17, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    I’m just absolutely stunned that yet another tax did not live up to expectations.

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      Asher Atkinson December 17, 2019 at 7:35 pm

      I’m equally stunned that administration cost 61% of the initial revenue collected. But fear not, when things are up and running like a properly lubed chain it will only come out to about $135 a retailer ($25000/184) to open the envelop, cross the name off the list, and deposit the check.

      Seriously, what many don’t get is that one can support goals, but be against and vote against taxes, knowing that the money and initiatives are so poorly managed. Recent case in point:
      https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2019/12/audit-portland-city-council-fell-short-on-promises-to-voters-on-recent-tax-bond-measures.html

      Can’t wait to see the numbers on the Portland Clean Energy surcharge….

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    kittens December 17, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Another in a long line of embarrassing new Oregon taxes. So bad it almost makes the argument for “small government” through it’s sheer idiocy.

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    Marianne Fitzgerald December 17, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    I’m about to purchase a 20″ bike for my grandson at the only local bike shop in Beaverton. It’s twice the cost as a purchase of a new bike from Fred Meyer, but I’m supporting a local business and HOPEFULLY supporting better bicycling infrastructure in the future in SW Portland and Beaverton where we live. Whether you like the tax or not, we need to pay for safe infrastructure where it’s needed and support Oregon small businesses.

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      meh December 18, 2019 at 6:53 am

      If you’re talking about bike gallery, well it’s half owned by a Californian.

      https://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2012/11/30/graves-sells-bike-gallery.html

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        mark December 18, 2019 at 7:52 am

        Yeah, but everyone that works at that store lives here. You’ll also end up with a much better bike, carefully assembled by a trained mechanic, if you buy from your local bike shop instead of Fred Meyer.

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          Matt December 18, 2019 at 3:31 pm

          BG is not a local bike shop. The local part-owner owns less than half and is essentially a silent partner.

          Source: I used to work there.

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      Naomi Fast (Washington County Correspondent) December 18, 2019 at 8:18 am

      Marianne, you inspired me to jump in this thread & say I love that you’re buying your grandson a new bike—and in Beaverton! I agree it’s good to support local bike shops; they’re a crucial part of our bicycle infrastructure, to go for repairs, knowledge, culture, etc. How many auto-related shops & stations are there for every bike transportation shop? 100s? 1000s? Maybe autos just break down more.

      Sadly, since the bike tax passed in 2017, we’ve already lost one of Beaverton’s few bike shops that’d been around 30(?) years.

      Can we get a roll call of any/all west side bike shops still in business? There’s Bike Gallery next door to the Ford Truck Ranch; is there still Veloce (near Bull Mountain) & SW Bicycle (near Garden Home)? Rock Creek Cyclery recently moved from the Bethany area to Cornelius Pass in Hillsboro. And we have WashCo Bikes! They’re raising $$ for their annual Adopt-a-Bike. Donating to them—now that’d help support bike transportation! And bike school, at that. There used to be someone living along Murray who opened their garage to community bike repairs, kind of a co-op, but that’s no more.

      I do have a Q for Marianne: Can you point me where you read the bike tax will buy safe infrastructure in the Beaverton area or anywhere?

      Last I studied the law, the bike tax won’t fund anything like bike lanes to grocery stores or schools. It’d go to a pot only funding off-road trails. I do see that ORLEG created a new Multimodal Active Transportation Fund but when I click on it, I get “There are no rules to display.”

      How hilarious would that be, an expensive-to-administer bike tax with an “Active Transportation Fund” that doesn’t even fund affordable transportation. However: all of us who live in WashCo pay property taxes that go into a fund called MSTIP. That fund buys “transportation,” which out here usually adds up to road widening & new wide arterials where UGBs got expanded. MSTIP could & *should* be funding safe/comfortable suburban bike infrastructure, since we all pay into it—car-free & renters too, assuming landlords bundle property tax into rent. But the way road projects get prioritized out here, it usually works out that car-free households end up helping to buy millions of dollars of new car capacity that makes it harder/scarier to actively commute & get to transit.

      TL;DR: in WashCo, a better way than a sales tax to get wanted bike transportation infra is to go to the Washington County Board &/ or WCCC meetings tell them to please get on with funding it.

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        Marianne Fitzgerald December 18, 2019 at 10:12 am

        Naomi: I bought his 16″ bike from the nice folks at Cascade Bikes in Tigard and may go back there again. It was helpful to get all of your advice on this purchase. I made an assumption about how the funds would be spent but honestly I’m afraid to ride my bike on the streets and have been taking him on bike paths like the ones in Champoeg, Tryon Creek or Marine Drive so we both feel more comfortable. I hope we can get more protected bike lanes on the west side.

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          Dave December 18, 2019 at 2:37 pm

          Yay! This bike business owner across the river in Vantucky thanks you for spending your money at a real bicycle store. Thank you!

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        El Biciclero December 18, 2019 at 7:31 pm

        I just recently had my bike tuned by Martin at Rock Creek Cyclery, and peeked in the window of Veloce (it was after hours) at Progress Ridge. The only losses I’ve noticed on the west side are Performance (not related to bike taxing, I don’t think) and a while back, Bike ‘N’ Hike, which was where I originally bought my bike, but closed before any bike tax passed.

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      Chris I December 18, 2019 at 8:35 am

      The bike may be “twice the cost”, but it is significantly better made. It will be lighter, will fit your kid better, and will last much longer. I can guarantee you that the profit margins for Kroger and The Bike Gallery are very close. The Kroger bike would be garbage within 5 years. You will be able to resell the Bike Gallery bike for a reasonable amount when the kids are done with it.

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    q December 17, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    Does anyone know of one person who used to complain about “bikers not paying their fair share” but no longer does?

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      mark December 18, 2019 at 7:54 am

      Every online article that mentions bicycles in any way has the same collection of idiots trumpeting the idea that we’re all a bunch of freeloaders. “Skin in the game,” right?

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      mark December 18, 2019 at 7:58 am

      The thing that really galls me is that all of this bike infrastructure is for the benefit of motorists anyway. If people driving could be trusted to safely operate their vehicles and yield to slower moving traffic, none of it would be necessary. It exists solely to keep us out of the way.

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        q December 18, 2019 at 10:22 am

        That point needs to be pushed more. Imagine if every bike lane were closed for a day, and all the bike traffic moved into the other lanes.

        Think if someone parked every day at an overcrowded public parking lot. The City built a new lot, so all of a sudden the same person could park in his same lot, and always find a space. He wouldn’t go over to the new lot and yell to people parking there, “You people need to pay for this!”

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    David Hampsten December 18, 2019 at 4:53 am

    Jonathan, could you let us know what ODOT document states that Oregon expects $1.2 million in net revenue annually from the $15 bike tax, and send us a link to that document? Thanks.

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    Fred December 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

    Recently I was stopped at a corner on SW Capitol Hwy – the new configuration with the buffered (protected?) bike lanes. Two men in a Miata convertible pulled up beside me, waiting to turn right onto Capitol. One of the men said, “Y’all need to be paying for all of this” as he waved his hand toward the plastic wands and lines of white paint. Darned if I couldn’t remember the $15 tax I had paid when I bought my bike! Next time….

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      Chris I December 18, 2019 at 8:45 am

      I can’t help but chuckle at the picture of two grown adult men in a Miata hassling someone on a bike. Were you able to keep a straight face?

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      rick December 18, 2019 at 9:53 am

      Less crashes on that street pays for it. Welcome the new street buffet.

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      q December 18, 2019 at 12:40 pm

      Actually you could tell them you did pay your bike tax, but the legislature won’t let it be spent on city bike lanes, and you agree–you’re as unhappy about that as they are.

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    Jim Lee December 18, 2019 at 10:56 am

    The Dude
    This Oregonian will never buy a bike in Oregon again.If you enjoy riding your bike, this should be one in a long series of clues that Oregon Democrats are basically Republicans.Recommended 3

    ..just like Barack Hussain Obama

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    Al December 18, 2019 at 11:40 am

    Fun fact: I got a $2500 check from the State of Oregon this year for buying an electric car. I’m here to say thank you to the 167 new bike buyers!

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    GNnorth December 18, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    I applaud Fitzgerald for buying locally but there isn’t anything wrong either with getting one from Freddies. Yes the quality of the build may be circumspect but ten year-olds are akin to a Samsonite gorilla throwing luggage around so if their bike even lasts three years in reasonable shape I would buy a lottery ticket. October visit to Ashland had me spending 35 minutes tuning up friends step kid Trek off-road they bought 18 months before but had sat in the garage for at least four months since the LBS did a poor job putting it together. Granted the parents should have taken it back for an initial check-up but few actually do.

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    D'Andre Muhammed December 19, 2019 at 8:40 am

    I’ve built my own last two bikes. Pieces coming from here and there. Kate Brown ain’t getting no more of my money.

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    joe d December 19, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    I oppose this two-burrito nuisance of a tax, but what’s the point of painting a false conclusion by comparing three quarters in 2019 vs four quarters in 2018? The tax brought in nearly 50% more revenue in the first three quarters of 2019 than in all four quarters of 2018. This is more than an “uptick”. When bike shops send in their 4th quarter payments next month, the total for 2019 will likely be close to $1 million, about a 100% increase over 2018 and not that far off from the state’s $1.2 million projection.

    As for the people vowing never to buy a bike in Oregon again just to spite the government over a $15 tax: that would only hurt your community and the local bike shops that are part of it.

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    Jason December 20, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    I bought a new bike in 2019, from a bike shop. I didn’t even think twice about the petty bike tax. I guess that is because I forgot about it. My only concern is that the tax will encourage online bike purchases. I really hope we don’t see bike shops die off. I grew up in Eugene and watched bike shops come and go. Only a few stayed over time. So, I know it’s a competitive market to begin with. When you add any disincentive factor, shops struggle more.

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