An article yesterday incorrectly described a users' fee involving the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The agency will impose the fee on applicants who wish to trade in commodity futures.
The Reagan administration has increased the fees that businesses and individuals have to pay to be licensed, certified and inspected by the government by millions of dollars since it took office, and the end is not in sight.
The increases are part of President Reagan's drive to get those who use federal services to pay for them. And, while the administration has had only limited success in persuading Congress to increase fees, little by little agencies have increased charges to their constituents when they could do it on their own authority.
The Office of Management and Budget, which devoted a special section of the fiscal 1983 budget to user fees, has not kept track of the increases across the government, making it difficult to total them. But a Washington Post survey found that new fees or increased fees for government licenses, inspections and permits will cost businesses and individuals at least $175 million a year more than in the past.
The federal government also is earning more money now from the sale of publications and charges imposed on other kinds of services, such as providing a list of federal mediators or creating nuclear waste disposal sites for power producers.
Although the administration has emphasized that the fees will be borne by the users of federal services, in many cases the new fees for inspections and permits will be passed on to consumers.
Most of the new licensing and inspection fees--about $138.28 million--have been levied on four kinds of people or businesses: farmers, inventors patenting products, electric and hydroelectric power producers, and those who trade in commodity futures.
At the head of the list is the Agriculture Department, where new fees for certifying and inspecting farmers' and ranchers' products will raise $41 million this year. Increased fees for nine smaller inspection and certification programs will raise an additional $14.8 million.
Cotton and tobacco growers, turpentine producers and agriculture warehouses were hit the hardest, paying nearly $27 million this year for services that previously were provided free. Included in the new fees are $20.45 per hour to inspect and grade more than 1.15 billion pounds of tobacco; $1.24 per drum to grade rosin, a byproduct of turpentine, and 67 cents per bale to grade cotton.
At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, higher fees for registering trademarks and processing patent applications will raise an estimated $50.48 million in new revenues this year, on top of the $28 million collected in fiscal 1982.
"Higher fees have enabled us to recover more of the costs of issuing the patents and trademarks, but have not affected our business in any appreciable way," said Bradford R. Huther, assistant patent commissioner for finance. He said, however, that there was an apparent rush of filings last fall to beat the increased fees.
The agency expects to process about 61,000 trademark applications in fiscal 1983--3,000 more than it had expected, but less than the 73,621 processed in fiscal 1982, when the fees were lower.
Congress became concerned last year that small businesses, independent inventors and nonprofit organizations couldn't afford to pay the higher fees, and passed legislation barring the Patent Office from charging them more than 50 percent of the new fee levels.
At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, new rules will nearly double the licensing fees that electric power producers and natural gas pipeline operators used to pay. These fees will produce an estimated $25 million in new revenues this year, most of it paid by the electric utilities.
The fees were established by a long series of calculations that first figured the average annual cost of a FERC employe and his overhead ($48,392) and then guessed how much staff time was required to review a particular application.
FERC executive director William G. McDonald has approved an elaborate reporting system that, when completely in place this summer, will require each agency employe to report twice a month how much time he spends handling specific regulatory tasks.
"It just got up to our place public affairs on May 1," said FERC spokesman Rachelle Patterson. "This system will make it easier to determine how much time is spent on specific matters," such as how much of a lawyer's time is spent on hydroelectric cases.
At the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a new charge has been assessed on every commodity market transaction, producing about $7 million a year.
The Interior Department, meanwhile, has assessed a variety of new fees, including a levy of up to $2,500 on developers who want to be able to take advantage of a federal tax credit for rehabilitating of a historic property. The department also will begin charging landowners between $100 and $3,200 to process a permit for a right-of-way across federal land.
At the Federal Maritime Commission, certain passenger ship owners who have to prove they can meet passenger claims will have to begin paying $1,681 to be certified. According to the agency's best estimate, only about 15 shipowners will have to pay the fee this year.
And, at the Civil Aeronautics Board, the agency has determined that some of the fees it has had in place since 1977 did not make sense when reviewed with an eye to recovering the agency's costs. Consequently, the CAB has increased the cost of approving an airline merger from $1,080 to $3,000, but reduced the fee for registering an airline as an air taxi service from $15 to $8.
But more increases may be in store. Among other kinds of user fees, Congress is considering legislation that would allow the Agriculture Department to raise $1.8 million to certify plants or plant products for export.