Steve McDonald, vice president, Government Affairs for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) recently issued a statement to its SEMA Action Network Members regarding the Shelby American Automobile Club’s (SAAC) annual April Fool’s gag.
SAAC’s hoax generated quite a bit of activitiy on the vehicle enthusiast blogoshere, with much negativity directed toward Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who was said to have drafted a bill that would create a federal tax on all collector, antique, historic, special interest, hot rods and race cars.
In his letter to SEMA members, McDonald wrote: "Some of you may have received notice of an alleged The New York Times article indicating that legislation was being drafted in the U.S. Congress to create a federal tax on collector cars. Hopefully, most of you know by now that the article was an April Fool’s Day prank. The author has indicated his regrets for any confusion or embarrassment to automobile collectors and enthusiasts caused by the prank. Below, we have included the full text of his letter revealing the hoax."
Please contact me if I can be of additional assistance.
Vice President, Government Affairs
Specialty Equipment Market Association
SENATOR SCHUMER “TAXING CLASSIC CARS” THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE REVEALED AS ONLY AN APRIL FOOL’S PRANK
The Shelby American Automobile Club’s (SAAC) annual April Fool’s gag reached a much wider audience than anyone could have predicted.
Initially a four-page newsletter was e-mailed to every member. It contained stories about a perpetual motion ’68 Shelby, a ’69 GT350 that supposedly got 40 miles per gallon and a bogus front-page recreation of The New York Times, dated March 28, that had two stories.
One was a hoax about purported tax legislation being prepared by Sen. Charles Schumer, which would tax every collector car, antique, hot rod and race car in the country. This was, of course, concocted out of thin air. But it was, on the surface, believable and it hit numerous hot buttons of car owners.
As soon as some SAAC members read this, they immediately went into full “Paul Revere mode,” posting the article on a wide variety of Internet car forums. Once on those forums, readers swarmed like angry killer bees, both posting angry comments about the unfairness of the concept and spreading parts and pieces of the original article in e-mails and postings. It was the classic definition of something “going viral.”
When readers on some forums recognized the whole thing as an April Fool’s joke and posted this, other readers seemed to look right past the warnings. We now know how Orson Wells must have felt after his 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast resulted in traffic jams as panicked people tried to flee New Jersey.
While we enjoy a good April Fool’s prank as much as anyone, we never envisioned that this one could spread so quickly or so widely beyond the Shelby American Automobile Club. We deeply regret if taking this story seriously has caused anyone any undue distress or embarrassment.
To keep more of that from happening we would greatly appreciate it if you could forward this message to as many car enthusiasts as possible. If they forward it to others who can forward it to even more people, maybe this second message will catch up with and overpower the first one.
And, finally, please do not contact Senator Schumer’s office. He already has his hands full with real issues of importance.
Shelby American Automobile Club
A copy of the "news item" prank that generated the viral responses is below:
Senator Eyes Collector Cars as Revenue Source
New York Times article Mar.28, 2011
Auto Enthusiasts who dodge taxes are in Schumer’s crosshairs
Washington, D.C. – AP. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) held a press conference today in the Capitol’s rotunda and stated that he is in the process of drafting a bill that will create a federal tax on all collector, antique, historic, special interest, hot rods and race cars.
"This country is operating at a huge budget deficit," said Senator Schumer, "thanks to the previous administration’s failure to seek new sources of revenue. We can no longer continue to just raise the taxes we already have. We are reaching the point of diminishing returns. We must find new sources of revenue.
"There are more than one million collector cars in this country,"said Schumer, "and many of them are unregistered and untaxed. These vehicles represent sometimes sizeable assets which often appreciate from sale to sale. Much of these capital gains remain untaxed.
It’s about time these collectorsall of whom are richbegin to pay their fair share. I’ve never heard of a poor person owning a Corvette, Ferrari, Deusenberg or Cobra."Citing the results of this year’sautomobile auctions in Scottsdale, Arizona as an example,where reported sales were in the tens of millions of dollars," Schumer said,
"We’re not talking about rusty old clunkers, here. Some of these cars represent the pinnacle of automotive history. Collectors who buy and sell them often do so privately. Some transactions are in cash and others include trades. All of these are under the Internal Revenue Service’s radar. Well, that will soon end.
"Each state has different laws and requirements for collector cars. Those which tax them as personal property often use outdated values. An owner can pay taxes on a car the state determines is worth $5,000 and then turn around and sell it for $100,000 or more. Until now, all of this has been the purview of each state."
Schumer’s law will sidestep all state laws by levying a federal tax in addition to anything the individual states do. This new federal tax will be similar to the present federal tax on gasoline, which is in addition to whatever a state assesses.
Part of the Schumer law includes the IRS opening up a special department to deal with collector cars. Values will be calculated annually and owners will be required to list all cars they own on their 1040 tax form. Because not all vehicles are registered, and thus may not be known to the individual states’ motor vehicles departments especially race cars which are not driven on public roads the IRS will make use of the existing network of individual collector car enthusiast organizations across the country.
Many of these car clubs maintain accurate registries which detail each car by its vehicle identification number and present or last known owner and their location. Assembling an all-inclusive federal database in conjunction with these registries will be one of the first steps in implementing the new law. Once the database of owners is cross-referenced with an annual index of current collector car values, every collector or race car in the country can be taxed at a fair rate.
Initially, Schumer says, it will be 10% but that would rise depending on the type of car, number produced and condition.
"Collectors are willing to pay more for certain cars," said Schumer, "because of their history or the small number that were produced. These factors increase a vehicle’s worth to buyers, so why should these cars not be taxed at a higher rate? It’s no different than our current progressive income tax rate."It is estimated that an annual10% tax on all collector cars presently owned by American taxpayers at their prevailing market value would be more than $250,000,000. In four years the coffers of the federal government could be fattened by a billion dollars.
"That’s only a conservative estimate," saidSchumer. "Nobody knows exactly how many collector cars are out there. But by this time next year, WE will know. Owners of these cars will finally have to pay up. Their free ride on the backs of the poor is over."