January 2003: Shakedown

1/10/2003.  I pick up the mail on the way home and discover, to my shock and disbelief, the result of my audit:  Motorcycles are specifically excluded from the tax credit.  I am to pay back all of the credit for 1999, and re-file amended returns for 2000 and 2001:  so I will have to pay back all that credit as well.

Along with interest.  Interest!

The short story is, Arizona screwed up majestically and now they’re going after anyone connected with the tax credit at all in order to cover themselves.

What really upsets me is that I have absolutely fulfilled the spirit of the law:  I rode my Lectra in order to commute to work, every day for the three years that I had it.  It was no scam.  But now I’m going to pay for it, and I’m going to pay with interest.  I have to pay $363.91 in interest, and that’s just tax year 1999.  The interest for my soon-to-be-amended returns for 2000 and 2001 are merrily compounding interest as well, I am sure.

The auditor found ARS 43-1086, which specifically excludes motorcycles from the tax credit.  When I was doing my research on it, the only electric-vehicle information I had found was ARS 28-5805, which basically says that as long as it “meets the safety standards of the national highway traffic safety administration”, it’s a vehicle.

The other thing I need to find out, and I don’t know if I can, is what the law looked like in tax year 1999, vs. what it looks like now.  Arizona hastily rewrote almost all of the alternative fuel law after they found out that people were doing things like using it to buy trucks that ran on CNG (compressed natural gas) and gasoline and never using the CNG portion, etc.  I am not sure how to find that out—the only statutes online are the most current versions.

And what is a regular guy like me going to do anyway?  It’s like when your computer’s operating system has a bug in it:  even if you’re in the right and it’s in the wrong, you lose.  Whether or not it screwed up, it’s going to corrupt your data.  And there’s not a thing you can do about it—except not to use the computer in the first place.

You might be saying, “so what, Jones, a couple thousand dollars in interest.  It’s not the end of the world.”  No, of course not.  It’s the principle of the thing.  That’s what makes me so upset.  If you don’t wanna provide an incentive, then just DON’T, and leave it at that.  Don’t lure people into being your investment, at their expense.  I expect this kind of behavior from spammers, car salesmen, and Columbia Record House, but not from my government.

I know one thing:  I’m not giving up until I find out that the statute she quoted, and the motorcycle exclusion in it, was in effect at the time I filed my return.

Read on to see what I discovered about the 1999 version of ARS 43-1086…