Highway Statistics 1996

Section I - MOTOR FUEL

The tables in this section show the volume of motor fuel used for highway and nonhighway purposes. The term "motor fuel" applies to gasoline and all other fuels, including special fuels, coming under the purview of the State motor-fuel tax laws. "Special fuels" include diesel fuel and, to the extent they can be quantified, liquefied petroleum gases such as propane. Gasohol, a blend of gasoline and fuel alcohol, is included with gasoline in all motor fuel tables in this section except table MF-33E.


Analyses of 1996 motor-fuel consumption are given in tables MF-21 and MF-24. These tables do not include data on fuel purchased by the Federal Government for military use or fuel exported from the United States. In table MF-21, adjustments have been made to allow for losses from destruction, evaporation, spillage, etc. Additional detail has been added to table MF-21 so that consumption is completely cross classified. The highway use by fuel type split formerly available from tables MF-25 and MF-26 may now be found in table MF-21.

Table MF-33GA shows, by month, gross gasoline volumes which have been reported in the publication, Monthly Motor Fuel Reported by States. Since the data in this table are taken from monthly reports issued by State fuel-tax agencies, and few year-end adjustments have been made, the totals will not agree with those shown in table MF-21. Adjustments are made in the annual data to exclude percentage losses in excess of 1 percent and to reflect usage rather than tax collections.

Table MF-33E shows Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates of the amount of gasohol used in each State. The national totals were developed from Internal Revenue Service reports of tax collections. The stratification by State is estimated by the FHWA using data reported by the States and other factors. This table replaces table MF-33GLA which contained State-reported volumes of 10-percent gasohol.


The volume of motor fuel exempt from and subject to State taxation is shown in table MF-2. This table is intended for use in revenue analyses and shows fuel volumes without regard to the type of use. The motor-fuel tax collections for all States are given in table MF-1, and the disposition of these revenues is given in table MF-3. These three tables can be found in the highway finance section. In most States, the tax on aviation fuel is either refunded or placed in a special fund for aviation purposes. Similarly, some States place in a separate fund all or part of the tax paid on fuel used by marine craft and use these funds for the improvement of marine facilities. When revenue from fuels used for nonhighway purposes is dedicated for expenditure for specific nonhighway purposes, it is shown in column 6 of table MF-1. Table MF-3 shows the disposition of the highway-user revenues shown in column 7 of table MF-1.

As of December 31, 1996, State gasoline tax rates ranged from 7.5 to 38 cents per gallon. Tax rates in effect for 1996 for gasoline and other motor fuels are given in table MF-121T in the highway finance section.

Diesel fuel is the most widely used of the special fuels. At the end of 1996, thirteen States reported higher tax rates on diesel fuel than on gasoline and nine States reported lower rates.

The words "exemption" and "refund" are not used interchangeably. In this publication, exemption is applied when the State purposely did not collect the tax, and refund has been applied when the State collected the tax and later returned it, in whole or in part. Exemptions are most frequently granted on motor fuel purchased by the Federal Government; they are also granted as allow ances for loss through evaporation, spillage, etc. Refunds are often granted for nonhighway uses of motor fuel such as for agriculture, aviation, manufacturing, construction, and marine purposes. In most States, gasoline used for nonhighway purposes is taxed but the tax is refundable, but special fuels used for nonhighway purposes are exempt from taxation. Historical data on State and Federal motor fuel gasoline and diesel taxes are included as table-MF-205.

A separate publication entitled Highway Taxes and Fees, How They Are Collected and Distributed provides additional information on motor fuel. The provisions governing the disposition of motor-fuel tax receipts can be found in table MF-106. Tables MF-101 through MF-105 summarize the more important State provisions for administering gasoline and special-fuel taxes, and tables MF-107 through MF-110 give the State licenses and fees imposed on wholesalers, dealers, and users of motor fuel and the liquid-fuels inspection fees.


The records of State agencies that administer the State taxes on motor fuel are the underlying source for most of the data presented in these tables. The FHWA estimates highway use of gasoline by subtracting estimated nonhighway use from the total use reported by the States.

Over the last several years, there have been numerous changes in State fuel tax laws and procedures that have resulted in improved fuel tax compliance, especially for diesel fuel. The improved compliance has resulted in increased fuel volumes being reported by the States to FHWA. The trends shown in the tables reflect both improvements in tax compliance and changes in consumption. More information on fuel tax compliance issues may be found in The Joint Federal/State Motor Fuel Tax Compliance Project Fiscal Year 1997 Midyear Report.

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