Federal fuel tax and other taxes set to expire Sept. 30

| 8/5/2011

Members of Congress will have another important expiration date to deal with when they return from summer recess, and this one affects all highway users. The taxes the feds collect on gasoline, diesel fuel, truck tires, heavy equipment and heavy-vehicle road use are all set to expire Sept. 30.

The transportation law known as SAFETEA-LU – the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users – expired in 2009, but it allowed the taxes going into the Highway Trust Fund to be collected for an additional two years. Those two years are just about up.

The Association is weighing the implications of what the expiration could mean, Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said.

“Many different taxes come with sunset dates attached to them,” Spencer said. “This is true for this situation as well.”

At the time SAFETEA-LU became public law in August 2005, lawmakers built in what they thought was ample time to get the next multi-year transportation authorization bill in place.

The two years since SAFETEA-LU expired have gone by quickly and without a new authorization bill, also referred to as a highway bill. House and Senate committees are working to draft their respective versions of the legislation are continue to debate matters of funding.

Under normal circumstances, tax provisions related to the Highway Trust Fund would be extended as part of the authorization.

“It’s highly unlikely we’re going to have a highway bill pass by Sept. 30,” Spencer said.

“It is likely, however, that we could be facing a real knock-down, drag-out sort of fight with the extensions of the Highway Trust Fund taxes as politicians take advantage of the situation or push their agendas in a particular way.”

And because the federal gasoline tax is involved, the issue is going to be bigger than just trucking and transportation.

“It becomes a big national issue beyond the transportation communities. It ensures that this is going to be a big deal,” Spencer said.

Editor’s note: For more information on the HVUT and a recently enacted a temporary regulation extending the due date, click here.