What every fleet needs to know about the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax

During the Used Truck Assn.'s inaugural convention last year, an excise tax specialist from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) talked to the group about the federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT). According to Richard Barnhard, there are a number of things fleets large and small should know about this excise tax. Here are the highlights of his presentation: The owner of the vehicle is responsible for

During the Used Truck Assn.'s inaugural convention last year, an excise tax specialist from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) talked to the group about the federal Heavy Vehicle Use Tax (HVUT). According to Richard Barnhard, there are a number of things fleets large and small should know about this excise tax. Here are the highlights of his presentation:

  • The owner of the vehicle is responsible for filing the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax and IRS Form 2290, as well as for paying the tax.
  • HVUT must be paid annually, in advance.
  • All heavy trucks are subject to the tax, with the exception of those that have been stolen, scrapped or driven less than 5,000 miles in a year.
  • In the event a truck has been stolen, scrapped or driven less than 5,000 miles, the owner can apply for an HVUT rebate - something few fleets are aware of. The refund process is confusing and tedious, however. Refunds go to the person or company that paid the tax, not to a subsequent owner.
  • The amount of the HVUT refund depends on when a truck was sold, since the tax is assessed over a fiscal year of July 1 to June 30 rather than a calendar year.
  • To register a newly purchased used truck, the owner must show proof that the HVUT has been paid. The IRS will only accept a stamped copy of Form 2290 as verification of payment.
  • Dealers often have a problem a getting a copy of the Form 2290 document. Although it is supposed to follow the truck around, many former owners fail to produce the document when they trade in their vehicle.
  • If Form 2290 cannot be found, dealers can use IRS Form 8821 (a tax information authorization form) to track down HVUT information. You can download Form 8821 from the IRS web site, www.irs.ustreas.gov. However, you should be aware that filling out this form, which requires the signature of the truck's former owner, can be a time-consuming process.
  • The IRS is developing a computerized system that would enable truck dealers to simply input a vehicle identification number (VIN) and get information about the HVUT status of any vehicle they are buying or selling. Right now, however, the VIN is not part of Form 2290.
  • Electronic filing of the Heavy Vehicle Use Tax may become a reality in the not-too-distant future. The IRS says it would like to have an electronic filing system up and running by 2002. But Barnhard points out that the logistical and funding challenges of this project probably make 2005 or 2006 a more realistic time frame.
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