The U.S. Harbor Maintenance Tax: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed?

This article presents a critique of the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) as a flawed method of collecting revenues and dispersing benefits. Looking at how it is applied on the Great Lakes of the U.S., a small container of high-value goods is taxed more heavily than an entire shipload of raw material for steel fabrication. It also details legal challenges in recent years, including a decision that exempted exports from the tax, though imports and domestic items are still subject to it. The result has made the HMT inherently unfair, the author argues, since exports put as much demand on harbor facilities as imports and domestic goods. Also, because it is based on a cargo's value, high-value items are steered away from water-borne transport, which is the most fuel efficient under some conditions. Additional objections and criticism are listed, including difficulty in enforcement, suppression of innovation in water-borne transportation, especially on the Great Lakes, forcing container cargo to Canadian ports and problems with how HMT revenues are distributed. Attempts to address many of these flaws are also detailed.


  • English

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01055803
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: UC Berkeley Transportation Library
  • Files: BTRIS, TRIS
  • Created Date: Aug 3 2007 12:49PM