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Taxes Only Truck Drivers Have To Pay


By: John Mueller, CDS, COSS


This post of Look Both Ways will help you get a grip on fuel/mileage taxes.  Most of you pay them, but don’t understand the methodology that goes into coming up with that Tax Due figure.

IFTA Fuel Taxes are required from vehicles that travel Interstate that have 3 axles or more, or that have GVW of 26,001 lbs. or more.  If vehicles travel only Intrastate, then all taxes due are paid at the pump at time of purchase – unless based in IN, KY or VA.  Why is that not the case in IN, KY or VA?   You’ll be able to answer that question after reading this blog.

Most fuel and mileage taxes are paid on a quarterly basis.  Some states have “mileage” type taxes, such as Weight-distance taxes, Highway Use taxes or Ton-mile taxes.  There are also a few states that have yearly “property valuation” type taxes that are paid on an annual basis in addition to fuel and mileage taxes.

Most carriers file these taxes as a fleet and then charge back to their independent contractors based on each contractor’s individual performance.  Most carriers assume responsibility for fuel/mileage taxes because if their owner operators neglected to file and pay the taxes due, the carrier becomes responsible for taxes due, plus penalties and interest.  Paying the taxes due as a fleet just ensures that the taxes get paid.

Prior to IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement), each state had its own individual fuel tax registration, forms and fuel tax decals.  Some states required a Fuel Tax License and even required the purchase of a Surety Bond (yes – like the bonds required now of freight brokers).  There was no uniformity as to vehicles subjected to tax from state to state.  In those days you would see “fuel decals” from many states on placards attached to truck because there were so many required decals.  I’m telling my age!

In order to compile or complete an IFTA tax form you need to gather detailed mileage and fuel purchase information, by state, for the previous 3 month quarter.  The IFTA form will be computed as a summary (total) of all your vehicles subject to the taxes.  If you run multiple trucks, having the previous information broken down by truck, will assist in computing taxes due from each truck in order to charge back to each truck owner.

To determine Miles per Gallon, divide total miles by total gallons.

Take a look at this video from the Ohio Department of Transportation, which will walk you through filling out the IFTA tax form.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejXlXPM3usQ” width=”700″ height=”500″]http://youtu.be/qXEQ7SaWgw8[/su_youtube]

Fuel taxes are a “pay now – or pay later” type deal.  In earlier times Truckers would put some effort into figuring how much fuel their truck would consume in each state, and purchase sufficient fuel in each state to offset the taxes due – making little or no taxes due to most states.  In today’s world it takes too much time to get off the highway, locate a fuel stop, wait in line at the fuel island, and work your way back to your intended route for this to be an easy task.  It can still be accomplished, but only through careful planning.  Your time is worth more than the fuel tax savings – besides the “surcharge” states of IN, KY and VA will almost always have a tax due if you travel in them.

The “surcharge” states have a tax rate just as the other states.  The tax rate in these states is made up of a lower “pump” rate, combined with a “surcharge” to arrive at their “tax rate”.   Let’s look at Indiana for an example.   Indiana charges you only 16 cents per gallon at the pump.  They add an 11 cent per gallon surcharge to each gallon making their total tax rate 27 cents per gallon.  Say your truck averages 10 miles per gallon and you travel 1000 miles in Indiana the previous fuel tax quarter.   You would have consumed 100 gallons of fuel in Indiana.  Even if you purchased 100 gallons of fuel in IN, you would still owe 100 times 11 cents or $11.00 in fuel taxes to the state of Indiana.   Now think about this – suppose you purchased 1000 gallons of fuel in Indiana because the fuel is so cheap due to the low tax rate at the pump.   You now burn 400 gallons of Indiana fuel in the state of Ohio and 500 gallons of Indiana fuel in the state of Pennsylvania.  How does this affect your taxes due?  Well, chances are, using this very simple example, you would have under purchased  fuel in Ohio by 400 gallons, and underpurchased fuel in the state of Pennsylvania by 500 gallons.   You would have a tax credit in Indiana based on 900 gallons.

Indiana .16 times 900 = ($144.00) CR
Ohio .28 times 400 = $112.00 tax due
Pennsylvania .3810 times 500 = $190.50 tax due
Calculated TOTAL tax due – $158.50

Did you save any money by purchasing less expensive fuel in Indiana?   The correct answer is NO – you just paid later.

KY Weight Distance Tax
Kentucky’s Weight Distance tax is charged by the mile for all miles traveled in the state by all vehicles having a combined gross weight or licensed weight in excess of 59,999 pounds, excluding farm licensed vehicles.  The tax rate is $.0285 cents per each mile traveled in or through the state of Kentucky.  Again, any vehicles less than 60,000 pounds are exempt from this tax.

NM Weight Distance Tax
New Mexico imposes a weight-distance tax on commercial vehicles with a declared gross vehicle weight in excess of 26,000 pounds. This tax is based on vehicle weight and miles traveled on New Mexico roads.  The tax rates are listed below.

To qualify for a One-Way Haul rate, the motor vehicle must (1) customarily be used for one-way hauls; (2) have traveled 45% or more miles for the registration year empty of all load; and (3) be
classified as a one-way hauler by the registrant, owner or operator who has made a sworn application to the department to be classified as a one-way hauler for the registration year.

NY Highway Use Tax
All vehicles having GVW over 18,000 pounds are subject to the New York Highway Use Tax.  The tax is applicable only on miles NOT travelled on the ThruWay.  In other words – toll miles are exempt from this tax.  You can file under the “Gross Weight Method” or under the “Unloaded Weight Method”.  Please contact the State for detailed filing information.  Listed below are the tax rates for the NY HUT:
Taxes Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 9.44.50 AM

OR Ton Mile Tax
Oregon imposes a mileage tax on all vehicle with GVW more than 26,000 pounds.   See the chart below for the per miles rate in Oregon.

Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 9.41.11 AMScreen Shot 2014-02-03 at 9.41.25 AM

Oregon offers a free service called Trucking Online.  According to the state it´s the best way to conduct trucking-related business with the Oregon Department of Transportation´s Motor Carrier Division. It´s an Internet-based service that allows a trucking company to use a home or office computer to connect with computers in Salem and complete various transactions electronically. It´s a fast, convenient way for a company to obtain credentials, file reports, and look up information about its account, all intended to make it easier to keep on truckin´ in Oregon.

For more information please visit Oregon’s Trucking Online Website at:

Even more taxes imposed on trucking companies…
In addition to above, the carrier you are leased onto probably pays the following:

AR Ad Valorem Tax assessed from Arkansas Annual Carrier Report – assesses taxes based on Total number of Units (Cars/Vans/Pickups, Medium 2-axles and Heavy 3-axle, along with trailers), the Average Manufacture Year of this equipment, and the Total Current Market Value (In US Dollars) of the listed equipment.   It  takes  literally days to compile this tax form for our entire fleet, only to receive a bill for $184.00.  Dear State of Arkansas – please just send the bill!


KS Motor Carrier Property Tax Rendition which is based on the miles travelled in the Kansas divided by the total miles everywhere (for the vehicles that entered Kansas the previous year) and also is affected by the market value of the submitted vehicle listing with Kansas miles in the previous year.

AND even more taxes imposed on trucking companies…
If your trucking company has “Intra-state” Authority – the right to pick up and deliver within a particular state, some states impose “Corporation” type taxes based on the business conducted within that state.  Ohio, Illinois and Indiana are a partial listing of states that impose even more taxes on Motor Carriers that conduct intra-state business within their state.

WOW!   That’s a whole lot of taxes, a whole lot of work to compute the taxes due, and a whole lot of technical stuff just to comply.

Disclaimer: This blog is NOT intended to give legal advice, nor be a substitute for any training required by the Regulations.

Till the next blog,  Thank you drivers for all you do! Please be safe!

Click here to read more of my blogs!

©John Mueller, CDS, COSS
[email protected]

Reprinted with permission.


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