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Office of Highway Policy Information

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Office of Highway Policy Information (OHPI) – Highway Finance Data Collection

Chapter 3
Report Identifying Motor-Vehicle Registration and Taxation

This chapter details the procedures for completing form FHWA-561, Report Identifying Motor-Vehicle Registration and Taxation. This form has been developed to report motor-vehicle ownership and registration features, including all fees and charges (except motor-fuel tax) associated with vehicle registration and operation.

States may prepare form FHWA-561 on either a calendar year or state fiscal year basis. The selected 12-month reporting period must be indicated in the "Notes and Comments" of form FHWA-561. (See Chapter 1 for more information on reporting period options.)

FHWA collects motor vehicle registration information from the states and disseminates that information to the public. Registration information is used by regulators and analysts at both the national and state levels to perform such tasks as forecasting tax revenue, highway deterioration, fuel consumption, , transportation planning, transportation conformity determination for air quality nonattainment areas, multimodal design criteria and analysis, and roadway safety analysis. The raw data used to address these tasks and produce the tables published in Highway Statistics come primarily from states. Thus it is critical that registration information FHWA receives and publishes is accurate, comprehensive, and timely. FHWA also uses other sources of information on vehicle fleets.

What's New?

To improve data quality vehicle categories and other data collected are reduced to critical items. In absolute terms, the number of data items reported is reduced from over 240 to 24. The template can be found at the following URL: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/eforms/mv-dl.htm.


Form FHWA-561 is designed to record the total number of motor vehicles registered during a year, classified by types of vehicles, and the corresponding payments of registration fees, together with miscellaneous receipts connected with motor-vehicle registration and operation. Federally owned vehicles should be excluded from all entries on form FHWA-561.

Section I. Vehicle Registrations

Vehicle registrations recorded in Section I are those licensed by a state to operate on public roads and highways, excluding animal-drawn vehicles, streetcars, trolley buses, or such vehicles as agricultural tractors or road machinery not designed or licensed for highway transportation. All other vehicles registered for use on public highways, whether operated privately or for-hire, should be reported by vehicle type in Section I.

The numbers of vehicles registered in a state varies on a daily basis due to vehicle sales transactions, migration, and other such activities. Data reported in Section I are a snapshot of continuously variable data at a given date and time. FHWA recommends that states maintain the same date and time every year, adhering to the data submittal deadlines.

There are four reportable vehicle categories, including three self-powering groups – passenger vehicles, buses, and trucks – and one non-powered category (trailers). Passenger vehicle types are further divided into automobiles, motorcycles, and motor bicycles and scooters. Buses are reported as either school or non-school. Trucks are reported as either single-unit trucks or truck tractors. Trailers include all types without self-propelling power units.

States are to report vehicles by subcategories shown. A state may report only an "all" value for a particular category when subcategory values are not available. States shall report vehicle subcategory values with as much detail as possible.

The following discussion includes considerations for determining vehicle types and for supplying the information required in Section I.

Item I.A.1. Automobiles. Record all sedans, station wagons, pickups, jeeps, SUVs, including taxicabs, rentals, ambulances and hearses. Any four or more wheeled passenger vehicles with a maximum GVW less than 10,000 lbs should be reported. If a vehicle is government owned, then it should be reported under Government Vehicle column. All others are to be reported under the Private Vehicle column.

Item I.A.2. Motorcycles. Motorcycles are defined as vehicles with or without enclosures possessing the following characteristics:

Item I.A.3. Motor Bicycles and Mopeds. This item includes vehicles with the following characteristics:

Item I.A.4. All Passenger Vehicles. Aggregate number of passenger vehicles. Enter values on this line only if passenger vehicle subcategories cannot be reported.

Item I.B.1. School Buses. Record here all buses (15 passenger or more capacity) used primarily for transporting K-12 grade students between home and school.

Item I.B.2. Non-School Buses. Record here all buses (15 passengers or more capacity) where transporting K-12 student to and from school are not the primary function.

Item I.B.3. All Buses. Aggregate number of buses. Enter values on this line only if bus subcategories cannot be reported.

Item I.C.1. Single-Unit. Single-unit means that a single frame supports both the power and the cargo carrying portions of a vehicle. Single-unit trucks exceeding 10,000 pounds maximum Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) should be recorded here. Single-unit trucks may cover all refuse collection trucks, neighborhood delivery trucks, camping and recreational vehicles, and motor homes. Single-unit trucks should also include farm trucks of at least 10,000 pounds GVW that are operable on all public roads.

Item I.C.2. Truck Tractors. Truck tractors refer to vehicles possessing only a power unit. Truck tractors do not have cargo-carrying capacity through its own frame. It is used to pull trailers and other vehicles. Enter the number of truck tractors registered. Farm truck tractors should also be reported here unless a state restricts its operation on all public roads.

Item I.C.3. All Trucks. Aggregate number of single-unit and truck tractors. Enter values on this line only if truck subcategories cannot be reported.

Item I.E. Trailers. A trailer is a non-motorized vehicle meant to carry property or passengers, which must be drawn by a motor vehicle. Enter the total number of trailers including full, semi, house, and all others here.

Section II. All Vehicle Registration Fees

In this section, enter total fees collected for all vehicle registrations (including trailers). Omit cents.

The fees reported in Section II should be the actual registration fee collected during the report year (calendar year or fiscal year). As compared with the active registration data which is a snapshot, the registration fee is cumulative covering the entire year. In some states, registration fees are collected by county or local officers who make a deduction (usually a fixed amount per registration issued) for collection expenses. The amounts tabulated in Section II should be the amount of registration fees turned over to the states (total amount collected deducted by county or local collecting officers if these deductions are in existence).

Do not report refunds paid during the year of excess fees charged on registrations of the year; deduct these refunds before tabulation of section II. If State records do not provide a segregation of current year refunds by type of vehicle, the total amount of the refunds may be entered as a deduction in of item III.5. (other receipts).

Refunds on payments in prior years should not be deducted in section II. Collections and refunds related to prior years should be in Item III.5.

Section III. Receipts

In this section, enter receipts of the motor-vehicle department and other offices other than the registration fees dealt with in section II. Omit cents.

Exceptions. The following types of receipts are exceptions to the general requirement that all receipts of the motor-vehicle department should be included in sections II and III:

In some states, certain items of motor-vehicle revenue, such as driver-license fees, highway patrol fines, and fees for periodic inspection of motor vehicles, are collected by the state highway department (in which case they will be reported as motor-vehicle revenue on form FHWA-531) or by some other agency independent of the motor vehicle department. All such receipts, however, should be reported on form FHWA-561 or form FHWA-562, as appropriate, or on a schedule attached thereto, regardless of which agency collects them.

Some states have enacted special taxes to be paid at the time of purchase, first registration, or titling of a motor vehicle. As such taxes are usually imposed in connection with a general state sales tax, there may be some question whether a given excise tax of this character is a special impost upon the motor-vehicle user or merely a part of a general state tax. The following discussion should be used as a guide in determining whether the receipts from such an impost should be reported on form FHWA-561.

If there is a general sales tax that applies to the purchase of motor vehicles as well as all other commodities (or to commodities in general with stated exceptions, such as food), the receipts from the tax as applied to motor vehicles should not be reported on form FHWA-561.

If, however, the excise tax was imposed under a separate act and the law states or implies that the tax is to be paid as a compensation for the use of the highways, it is to be considered as a special tax on the motor-vehicle user. Also, if the tax is imposed on motor vehicles alone, it is to be considered as a user tax, even though the consideration is not stated or implied in the law. If, judged by these considerations, the impost is found to be a highway-user tax, the proceeds therefore should be reported as miscellaneous receipts in item III.G. on form FHWA-561.

In case of doubt as to whether the receipts from a given tax on motor vehicles should be reported on form FHWA-561 or regarded as part of a general state tax and thus omitted from form FHWA-561, the matter should be taken up by correspondence with the FHWA.

Item III.1. Dealers' licenses or permits. Report receipts from special dealers' or garage licenses issued by the agencies regulating or licensing motor vehicles, inspection, repair, and so forth. Do not include regular licenses that are required of all businesses. Include all dealers' license plates whether "original" or "extra" plates, as well as motorcycle plates.

Item III.2. Certificates of title. Enter the receipts f from certificates of title (called certificates of ownership in some states) issued.

Item III.3. Fines and penalties. Enter here all receipts of the motor-vehicle department (or other state agencies) from fines and penalties imposed for infractions of motor-vehicle registration laws and regulations, including oversize and overweight penalties. (Permit fees for excess weight, however, should not be reported in item III.3., but should be included in III.4. The state's receipts from fines and penalties imposed for infractions of traffic laws (e.g. moving violations and parking violations) should not be shown in this report.

Item III.4. Oversize and/or Overweight Permits. Enter the total amount of fees collected by states through the issuing of Oversize and/or Overweight Permit Fee.

Item III.5. Other receipts. This item covers all fees related to motor vehicle registration and operations collected by states other than those reported in itemized categories. Other receipts may include caravan fees, transit fees, towing fees, auto transport fees, vehicle safety inspection fees, vehicle emission test fees, title lien fees, and others. The dollar amount of other receipts should be minimal compared with itemized fees. As noted in the instructions under section II, this is also the proper place to record collections and refunds related to prior years. If the space provided is not sufficient, the complete classification of miscellaneous receipts may be given in a Notes and Comments Section.

Section IV. Grand Total, Receipts and Fees

Enter the summation of II, III.1, III.2, III.3, III.4, and III.5 here.

Note that the section IV grand total should agree or be reconciled to the amount reported in item I.A., column (A), FHWA-566.


To assist the FHWA in interpreting the data on form FHWA-566, the States should provide supplemental schedules (such as balanced statements of the motor- vehicle inspection fund or highway patrol fund) with form FHWA-561 where appropriate. Also any new motor-vehicle registration forms and sample title forms should be sent when they become available.


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Page last modified on November 7, 2014
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