The International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) is required in 48 out of the 50 U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces. Owner-operators are responsible for paying fuel taxes and filing IFTA reports. Calculating IFTA can become complicated; therefore, using available software can save you time.
Continue reading below to learn more about IFTA and how to calculate your payments.
What is IFTA?
The IFTA was created to help simplify tax reporting for owner-operators. Also, the IFTA ensured each state received their share of the tax money for fuel used in their state, but not necessarily purchased there.
- Tax payments are simplified across state and national borders.
- Each state or jurisdiction has its own tax requirements owner-operators must.
- Truckers will not have to keep track of so many decals, forms, and other fuel amenities.
Most states and provinces use the tax money they receive to improve and build highways.
Who is Affected by IFTA?
IFTA does not apply to recreational or personal vehicles. However, if your truck has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,000 pounds or more, you are required to file IFTA. If your truck does not meet the GVW requirement but has three or more axles, you are still required to file IFTA.
Another requirement is if you cross state lines or transport products, you must file IFTA reports.
IFTA Requirements for Owner-Operators
To stay in compliance with IFTA’s basics, make sure you are aware of the rules and stay up to date on them. Being organized is key to ensuring you have all the paperwork needed. The following will help you get started.
- Keep track of all miles run in each state and fuel purchases.
- IFTA requires owner-operators to always display a current decal visibly on the truck. Decals change every year on January 1st; truck drivers have until February 28th of that year to replace them without being subjected to fines.
- IFTA reports and tax payments are due every 90 days with deadlines on the last day of January, April, July, and October.
- Retain the last four years of fuel tax records in case DOT audits you.
IFTA Fuel Buying Strategies
Where you fill-up determines which states receive your tax payments. The best strategy to abide by is the same as with any purchase; the cheapest. You can determine the most affordable fuel cost by the per-gallon tax rate from the per-gallon pump price.
When deciding the cheapest fuel after IFTA and taxes, you will want to compare fuel pump prices with all the states in which you will travel. It is a good idea to get in the habit of pre-planning your fuel stops before you begin your route.
You can also plan your route and find the lowest fuel prices by using online resources. Some will show you an average fuel cost per state, but some will show individual fuel station costs.
The overall real fuel prices are generally close to the same costs within $.40. It is easy for new owner-operators to think there is not much difference between which fueling station they choose. However, when it comes to paying the tax, this is when you will notice the difference.
States Charging Fuel Surcharges
Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana charge a surcharge on fuel burned in their states. This surcharge is regardless of whether you bought fuel in this state or not. The surcharge is added to the tax the state will receive per the IFTA reporting. The added charge does not affect an owner-operator’s fuel buying strategy; it involves the route planning. The longer you spend driving in these states, the more it will cost you in fuel surcharges.
Avoiding IFTA Payments
Owner-operators cannot avoid IFTA payments. Some drivers attempt to avoid paying IFTA by purchasing only enough fuel to make it to the next state. While drivers will pay less in IFTA payments, you are paying more by missing fuel-saving opportunities in the long run.
When truck drivers purchase enough cheaper fuel in one state to make it to the next state, the fuel cost could be higher in the next state. In the end, the route could cost them more by not filling up in the first state that provided the cheaper fuel cost. The only time this strategy is helpful is if the owner-operator is short on cash flow and needs the money currently. However, this is not recommended in the long run. Planning your route and buying strategy will help increase your cash flow long-term.
Calculating IFTA Payments
Some owner-operators want to figure the IFTA payments on their own rather than using software. While this might save you money on software, or someone else doing them, it is time-consuming. Make sure you have all your paperwork ready and in order.
- First, calculate all miles driven for the previous quarter in each state or province.
- Next, add up how many total gallons of fuel was purchased. Then, determine how many gallons were purchased in each state.
- Calculate total fuel mileage for the quarter by taking your total miles driven and divide by the total gallons purchased. Next, figure out total fuel mileage per state by dividing each state-driven miles by the overall fuel mileage.
- Next, you will determine the fuel tax you owe for each state. You will need a current chart for state tax rates. Take the total number of gallons purchased in each state and multiply that by the state’s fuel tax rate.
- For each state that requires IFTA payments, you will take the fuel tax required and subtract your paid fuel tax. This number will be how much you owe in IFTA payments to this state.
- You will add all states tax numbers to determine the total amount you will put on your tax form.
ELDs and IFTA Fuel Tax Reporting
Some ELDs offer software that automatically calculates the IFTA tax due. These ELDs allow truck drivers to upload fuel receipts, use GPS to automatically calculate miles driven and gallons of fuel purchased in each IFTA jurisdiction. The software keeps a running total to make reporting easier. Using an IFTA reporting software will lessen the chances of a mistake being made and increases your time on the road.
Fuel tax for truck drivers does not have to be difficult. If you keep track of all your documents, this can help you in the end when filing taxes.