OOIDA calls out New York for unconstitutional highway taxes

By Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief

OOIDA’s attorneys filed a class action complaint Oct. 8 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Albany, challenging certain highway taxes as unconstitutional and discriminatory against out-of-state truckers who have paid the taxes in order to do business in New York.

The action names the defendants as the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Thomas H. Mattox (individually and in his official capacity as commissioner), along with the State of New York; and Andrew Cuomo (individually and in his official capacity as governor of the state of New York).

Named plaintiffs in the case are OOIDA and OOIDA Members Bryan Spoon dba Spoon Trucking, Steve Bixler, Jack McComb and William “Lewie” Pugh. 

This action challenges 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 mostly in New York, but also on trucks based outside of New York, which are driven mostly in states other than New York. Failure to pay on a timely basis can result in fines or even the seizure of a truck.

Trucks owned and/or operated outside of New York travel fewer miles on New York highways than trucks owned and/or operated in New York. The imposition of the challenged taxes results in a higher per mile tax rate being imposed on out-of-state trucks. OOIDA charges it thus constitutes an undue burden on interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 3.

The challenged taxes also violate the “due process clauses” of the United States and New York Constitutions, and are actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Civil Rights Act).

The named plaintiffs seek to represent a class of all interstate motor carriers who reside and/or operate trucking equipment primarily outside the state of New York who have paid or will pay the taxes and are now or may in the future become subject to the requirements of the taxes.

“In past years, OOIDA has been involved in legal action against dozens of states resulting in tens of millions of dollars in direct refunds to more than 300,000 owner-operators who bore the economic burden of unconstitutional taxes,” said OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston. “Those cases succeeded in stopping the proliferation of unconstitutional, discriminatory and burdensome taxes in those states. Our goal here is to once again put a stop to this type of discriminatory taxation before it spreads to other states.”

The action filed in October asks the court to declare those taxes unconstitutional and therefore invalid and not enforceable. The complaint also asks for injunctive relief, refunds and other appropriate relief on behalf of the plaintiffs.

OOIDA seeks to represent a class of all interstate motor carriers who reside and operate trucking equipment primarily outside the State of New York who have paid or will pay the taxes. LL