Officials review delivery 'package tax' among proposals for Pa. transportation funding

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There could be another tax added to your online shopping. State officials are considering recommending a new source of revenue by charging an e-commerce convenience fee for every package delivered in the state. The "package tax" proposal is in its early stages.

Members of PennDOT's Transportation Revenue Options Commission said it could help address the impact of rising home delivery trends on transportation and the environment. Pennsylvania residents would pay a flat fee for delivery of packages. Certain items would be exempt, such as prescriptions.

In presenting the proposal to the commission, Jennie Granger, deputy secretary of multimodal transportation for PennDOT, speculated such a tax could generate revenue in the range of $250 million to $1 billion per year, based on current trends. An estimated 554 million packages were delivered in the state in 2019, and that number rose to over 721 million last year.

Granger believes these numbers will only continue to rise.

"Even though we're out of quarantine, I will tell you that I love having my groceries delivered," she said at a June commission meeting.

"I think it's reflective of a lot of change in thinking on 'Do I really need to run to the store or can I just get online and order it and have it dropped off at my house?'"

The commission was set up in March to determine transportation funding alternatives to supplement revenue from Pennsylvania's gas tax. The package tax is one of several recommendations the commission is expected to present to Gov. Tom Wolf by the end of the month.

"I think this could be a significant funding source, whether it was for transit or freight, or highways or local roadway networks," Granger said.

It is a long way off from becoming a reality, but if the package delivery fee were to be implemented in the state, it would represent a transportation funding source that has not been used yet anywhere in the country.

New York City is considering its own package tax proposal, at a rate of $3 per box. And Colorado is considering a statewide tax, at 25 cents per parcel.

The commission is scheduled to meet again on July 28.