A New York lawmaker has proposed enacting a $3 surcharge on every "nonessential" package that is delivered via an online purchase in New York City, already one of the most taxed cities in the United States.
The new tax would alleviate financial constraints of the city's Metropolitan Transit Authority, which has forecasted a budget shortfall of more than $16 billion through 2024.
According to New York Assemblyman Robert Carroll, a Democrat, enacting a $3 surcharge on package deliveries from online purchases would raise more than $1 billion per year, considering that an estimated 1.8 million packages are delivered daily in the Big Apple.
"Delivery trucks and vans are a ubiquitous presence on our city streets, weaving through our neighborhoods, double-parking in bus lanes and idling outside buildings, day and night," Carroll wrote in an op-ed in the New York Daily News. "Shopping online is cheap and convenient. It also means more trucks clogging city traffic, slowing buses, and spewing pollution, all of which have costs of their own."
The delivery surcharge would apply only to deliveries of "nonessential items," which includes most everything that people buy online. Items like medicine and food would be considered "essential."
Carroll explained that his proposal would also incentivize New Yorkers to shop local, and mockingly said consumers should wait longer for their packages to arrive.
A delivery surcharge would incentive some consumers to patronize neighborhood businesses instead of reflexively ordering items online from Amazon, Walmart, Etsy or eBay. They might be reminded how local mom-and-pop stores, and bigger retailers like Bloomingdales and Macy's, are part of what makes a city dynamic, diverse and interesting. These businesses also employ our neighbors.
A delivery surcharge will also undoubtedly encourage consumers, and the Amazons of the world, to more regularly consolidate multiple items into a single package for delivery. Instead of shipping someone a pair of new sneakers on Monday, a pair of socks on Wednesday and a toaster oven on Friday, Amazon could put them into one box and (gasp) make you wait a little. That's one truck trip down your block by FedEx or UPS instead of three. Now multiply that by millions.
According to WPIX-TV, the MTA has asked the federal government for $12 billion to stymie "drastic service cuts, layoffs and gutting our historic capital plan that would devastate our colleagues and customers."
However, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, enacting the new tax would only penalize New Yorkers.
"[A] tax of $3 per package may hurt Amazon and Walmart indirectly, it's really a tax on the people who benefit from the competitive prices and convenience those and other online retailers often provide," the think tank said. "If the tax succeeds in reducing online purchases, it will not generate the projected revenue. If it fails to shift many additional purchases to brick-and-mortar shops, it merely penalizes New York City residents for shopping online during a pandemic."