State Data Reporting
State-reported motor fuel data is a critical component of the process that distributes HTF monies to the States. Currently, motor-fuel-based apportionment factors result in the distribution of about $12 billion for the STP, IM, NHS, and minimum guarantee programs. Under ideal data conditions, all States would treat motor fuel taxation exactly the same. This is not, however, the case. Indeed, even though all States must use the same two forms for reporting motor fuel data to FHWA, significant differences in reporting can occur.
The data reports submitted to FHWA by the States are Form FHWA-551M ("Monthly Motor-Fuel Consumption") and Form FHWA-556 ("State Motor-Fuel Tax Receipts and Initial Distribution by Collection Agencies"). Copies of these forms are shown in Appendix C. Form FHWA-551M, which is typically completed by the State agency that collects the motor fuel tax, is sent to the FHWA Office of Highway Policy Information and to the FHWA Division Office. The form is to be submitted no later than 90 days after the close of the month for which data are being reported. Unavailable data from one month can be included in the next month's report, with notes of explanation included on the second page of the form. FHWA uses these State-reported revisions and corrections of motor fuel data to update the State data files. Data are currently submitted from the States in several formats mailed in paper reports, facsimile paper reports, e-mailed reports, or computer disk reports in spreadsheet format. FHWA is converting to electronic submissions in calendar year 2002.
The first page of Form FHWA-551M contains columns for entry of gallons of four types of motor fuel: gasoline, gasohol, highway diesel fuel, and highway liquefied petroleum gases. The rows of the report provide space for entry of gallons of fuel for each type that meets any of several State taxation characteristics (e.g., gross volume reported, fully tax exempt gallons, gross volume taxed, fully refunded gallons, and net volume taxed). The second page provides space for notes, technical information, and general comments. There is also space for State tax rates for the various motor fuel types, space for computation of motor carrier gallons, which are taxed and calculated differently due to International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) reporting. Finally, there is space for details on State treatment of gasohol by blend ratio.
With the data submitted by the States, FHWA produces a report entitled Monthly Motor Fuel Reported by States. This monthly report is produced about six months after the month in which the transactions occur that trigger State taxation of motor fuel. It normally takes States about three months to administer the tax collection process and produce accurate monthly data. It then takes about three more months for that data to be reported and placed in FHWA-generated tabular format. The data on hand from the States at the time of preparation for publication are included, and States that have not submitted data by that time are, obviously, not included. Although the data are not consistent or complete at this early stage, they represent the first place for States to check FHWA motor fuel entries for reasonableness and consistency with their own records.
Form FHWA-556 is an annual report of State highway-related tax receipts, which is due to FHWA by April 1 of each year. The form represents motor-fuel tax revenue collections for the State's fiscal year. It contains columns for reporting separate receipts for gasoline, special fuels, and other receipts. Page 2 of Form FHWA-556 provides space for notes and comments. Instructions for completing both forms are given in Chapter 2 of A Guide to Reporting Highway Statistics.
A draft summary report is compiled by FHWA about August of each year for the preceding calendar year. During the next 12 months, the draft report is reviewed and modified, as necessary, with State participation in the review process. Therefore, the final report on motor fuel usage for calendar year "xx" is available in August of calendar year "xx + 2."
A time line of activities is shown in the following figure. The length of time required to obtain and analyze the States' data, estimate missing and/or inconsistent data, and coordinate these results with updated highway user tax data from Treasury is about two years from the end of a calendar year. For example, fuel usage for a State for calendar year 1997 was combined with Treasury information for fiscal year 1998 to provide apportionments to the State for fiscal year 2000.
Although States report their gallons of fuel used monthly (FHWA-551M) and total tax receipts (FHWA-556) annually, it is not currently sufficient for FHWA to simply sum up the total gallons of fuel reported and use that data for attribution. States have very different tax legislation, tax forms, and administrative procedures. There are significant variations among the States in, for example, exemptions or refunds for off-highway use or for government use. In order to ensure more equitable reporting, FHWA must make adjustments to the State data to account for these discrepancies. These adjustments are part of the attribution procedure, which is discussed in the next section.
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