Since the economy tanked last year, there has been a lot of talk about taxes — to pay for the bailout, for the proposed healthcare bill, for the continued fighting abroad — but also tax breaks for new homeowners to try and kick the stalled housing market into gear. What I want to know is, where are the tax breaks for full-time RVers???
I've always found it sort of ironic that we give very specific tax credits to homeowners, denying similar benefits to renters, full-time RVers, and anyone else who hasn't opted to permanently plant his flag in one spot. What's the rationale behind this? Are you just inherently less valuable to society when you don't own property? I would like to think that my worth is tied to more than my portfolio! Is the belief that I'm not contributing to my community if I haven't bought a house and “settled down”? I would have to disagree with that. Matt and I pour plenty of cash into the local economy — we just spread it around a bit, some over here and some over there, instead of giving all of our money to one zip code. Homeownership does not equal contribution, and most renters will agree with me here — somehow, I believe that all those folks in cities like Manhattan and San Francisco who are paying millions of dollars a year for an apartment (that they don't own) are stimulating the economy just fine!
It seems to me that what we're doing is rewarding folks for taking on a huge chunk of debt — I mean, that MUST be the case, because you actually get more of a deduction when you finance a house than when you buy it outright. And as seen by the recent mortgage debacle, people have been incurring quite a bit more debt than they can afford or should have been allowed in the first place. However, for those of us who choose to downsize and live a life that is well below our means (not to mention “pay for their home in cash”) no such tax credit is available. I would personally give the deduction to the person who wasn't a drain on the economy — the one who had no debt, lived frugally, and was actually putting money away in savings (giving the banks something to lend to everyone else!) Are we rewarding the wrong kinds of behaviors here, or what??
If you suggest that the tax credit is to encourage the “stability” that comes from owning a piece of property — the fact that it's an investment, the concept of pride of ownership, all that jazz — I'll go along with you there. I do understand that when you have a vested interest in your home and a stake in its well-being, you're a better citizen and neighbor — and that you are more likely to care for a home you own than one you rent, increasing property values for the surrounding area. I just want to know why wasn't I given a similar reward when I bought my Airstream? It's my home, I am proud of it, we are model citizens at every RV park we visit, and it's certainly an investment (this thing will be functional as long as just about any house). I'm a homeowner just like any other — but because my house is on wheels, it doesn't seem to qualify for the same benefits as one attached to a foundation. Discrimination!
The government also likes to provide homeowners with “energy conservation” tax credits — deductions for replacing old appliances, installing solar panels, putting in double-pane windows, upgrading your insulation, you name it. The responsible use of non-renewable resources is certainly a good thing. But few homeowners are as “green” as a full-timer — and we're being completely ignored!
Now let me be clear — there are two kinds of RVers out there. The “weekend warrior” people are the ones who drag 17 extra vehicles with them, use paper plates, throw their recyclables in the trash, and burn through gasoline like there's no tomorrow. But true full-timers are some of the most eco-friendly travelers on the road — we actually live a greener lifestyle than most people who reside in a stationary house. We have a smaller footprint because, regardless of your political or social beliefs, the lifestyle itself forces you to be more conservative with your resources. Let's face it, no matter how conservation-minded a homeowner you are, we are still guaranteed to use fewer utilities than you — simply because we're heating and cooling and electrifying less space in our 29-foot travel trailer! In the Airstream, our entire unit runs on a single 30-amp plug — and we can live quite nicely for a week off of the 50 gallons our fresh-water tank holds.
The one general misconception is that RVers are major consumers of gasoline and polluters of the environment because they a) drive bigger vehicles, andb) are always on the road. You absolutely have a case against these fools who drive motorhomes as big as a tour bus and have to tow yet ANOTHER car behind them — those things are obnoxious, have worse gas mileage than a Hummer, and in my opinion should be outlawed. Is our Ford F-250 the most gas-conscious vehicle on the road? No — but we chose the smallest and most fuel-efficient truck possible that still had the towing capacity to pull our Airstream. Would we get better gas mileage in a SmartCar or a hybrid? Sure — but they haven't yet developed one that will pull a trailer — so it's sort of a moot point. Besides, how many regular people do you know that drive these kinds of cars on a daily basis? Or are all of your friends in huge freaking soccer-mom SUVs? At least we have a good reason for owning a truck…
And the thing is, we are not always on the road, driving hundreds of miles each day to reach the next destination. While this may be true of some RVers, this is absolutely not the way Matt and I travel. We tend to drive a couple of hundred miles over the course of a week or two — then park it in that one spot for an extended time. Our average stay in one location is about 2 months — then we pack up and head out again. Since we work at home, we aren't even in the car every day while we're settled in that location. The average full-timing family travels about 6,000 miles each year — according to an ABC news poll, the average daily commute for an American worker is 16 miles one-way. Most 2-person families have 2 single-car-drivers, each racking up 32 miles a day. If the husband and wife both drive to separate jobs, working 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year (with 2 weeks off for vacation), that's 16,000 miles a year — not counting weekend, evening, or vacation driving. Don't be talking to me about how much gasoline we use!
Everyone else in this country is so focused on the needs of their own particular special interest group — the elderly, health insurance companies, tobacco, auto manufacturers, big business, small business, parents, the “differently abled,” what have you. I think that I'm going to start a lobbying group, dedicated to protecting and expanding the rights of full-timers. While we will certainly be a small and select group, we will be vocal (at least I will be vocal!) We're tired of being disenfranchised and we're just not going to take it anymore! Who's with me?
Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream with The Husbert and two fur-babies. Learn more at GettingOrganizedAToZ.com and RamonaCreel.com.
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