Tax Guide for Motor Fuel Taxes

Helping your business succeed is important to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). The taxes you collect and pay to the state help fund state and local services and programs that are important to you and your community.

Understanding the tax issues specific to the motor fuels industry can be time-consuming and complicated. This guide will help you to obtain the information you need in a timely and understandable way, and to better understand the tax and licensing obligations for the motor fuels industry (motor vehicle fuel, diesel fuel and aircraft jet fuel), allowing you to focus on starting and growing your business. View our other tax guides for information related to International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA), diesel fuel interstate user, and use fuel tax (alternative fuels).

How to Use This Guide

Each section of this guide contains important information relevant to the motor fuels industry. The Getting Started section provides key resources related to registration, filing returns (including forms, schedules, reports and templates), account maintenance, and other information motor fuels businesses may need. For information relating to filing via Flat (FLT) File and Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

The Industry Topics and Resources sections provide links to useful information, including special notices, publications, Frequently Asked Questions, refund information, statutory and regulatory information, and access to assistance from our Customer Service Representatives.

If You Need Help

If at any time you need assistance with topics included in this guide – or have other related questions – feel free to contact us by telephone or email for assistance. Contact information and hours of operation are available in the Resources section.

If you have suggestions for improving this guide, please contact us by email.

This section of the guide provides information related to the application of tax and registration requirements for the motor fuels industry, except IFTA, diesel fuel interstate user, and alternative fuels. Information relating to those programs can be found in the respective tax guides.

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The motor vehicle fuel tax and diesel fuel tax are imposed on each gallon of fuel entered, or removed from a refinery or terminal rack in this state. The laws parallel the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) excise taxes on fuels as contained in its laws and regulations effective January 1, 1994.

Biodiesel and biofuel, including renewable diesel fuel, are administered under the Diesel Fuel Tax Law. The IRS provides the CDTFA with inspection reports of highway operators using dyed diesel and diesel fuel on highway.

The State Controller’s Office maintains the accounts receivable records for the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Program, and is responsible for collecting delinquent monies, and also receives and processes claims for refund on tax paid fuel used in a non-taxable manner.

The Jet Fuel Tax program involves the taxation of aircraft jet fuel (AJF). AJF is any inflammable liquid that is used or sold for use in propelling aircraft operated by a jet or turbine type of engine. The tax is imposed for the privilege of using or selling aircraft jet fuel. The tax is imposed on every aircraft jet fuel dealer measured by the number of fuel gallons sold to an aircraft jet fuel user or used by an aircraft jet fuel dealer. The tax for this program is collected by the State Controller's Office. Your check or money order should be made out to the State Controller's Office.

If you are a throughputter, terminal operator, blender, enterer, refiner, position holder, diesel fuel ultimate vendor, vessel/pipeline operator, industrial user, government entity, diesel exempt bus operator, train operator, or an aircraft jet fuel dealer, you will need to register with the CDTFA for one of our fuel tax licenses or accounts.

Register with us online for your motor fuels licenses, seller's permit, and any other permits, or accounts applicable to your type of business. Our registration system will prompt you when you select Register a business activity with CDTFA from Registration – Main Menu.

You are also responsible for contacting your city and/or county government office for information on local licenses you may be required to obtain.

License, and Account Requirements
Motor Vehicle Fuel and Diesel Fuel
If you are a(n)… Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Licenses Diesel Fuel Tax Licenses Comments
Throughputter, Blender, Enterer, Refiner, or Position Holder Motor Vehicle Fuel Supplier License Diesel Fuel Supplier License You need both types of supplier licenses if you have both diesel fuel and motor vehicle fuel transactions
Terminal Operator Motor Vehicle Fuel Supplier License
Terminal Operator License
Diesel Fuel Supplier License
Terminal Operator License
One Terminal Operator License is valid for both fuel types
Government Entity N/A Government Entity License  
Diesel Exempt Bus Operator N/A Exempt Bus Operator Diesel Fuel Tax License  
Pipeline Operator or Vessel Operator Petroleum Common Carrier License Petroleum Common Carrier License One license covers both fuel programs
Petroleum Train Operator Petroleum Train Operator License Petroleum Train Operator License One license covers both fuel program
Ultimate Vendor N/A Diesel Fuel Ultimate Vendor License Report and Claim for Refund
Diesel Fuel Exempt Seller N/A Diesel Fuel Exempt Seller Account Claim for Refund Account
Diesel Fuel Exempt User N/A Diesel Fuel Exempt User Claim for Refund Account
Petroleum Industrial User Petroleum Industrial User License N/A Registration Only

Notes

  1. A diesel fuel supplier who removes aircraft jet fuel must also report the removals on its Supplier of Diesel Fuel Tax Return.

A person who makes sales of aircraft jet fuel to an aircraft jet fuel user, and delivers the aircraft jet fuel in this state:

  • into the fuel tanks of aircraft, or
  • into a storage facility from which the fuel is withdrawn for use in aircraft,

must register with the CDTFA as an Aircraft Jet Fuel Dealer and obtain a seller’s permit.

Rates

Filing Returns & Reports

All licensed fuel suppliers are required to file tax returns and schedules, which are due on or before the last day of the month following the reporting period. Tax returns and schedules must be filed even if no transactions were made during the reporting period. For motor vehicle fuel suppliers paying amounts due by check, the check must be made payable to the State Controller’s Office. For online filing information relating to filing via EDI and FLT File, see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

All licensed terminal operators are required to report their monthly receipts and disbursements of liquid products to and from approved terminals and ending inventory of all products in the terminal. The report is due on or before the last day of the month following the reporting period. The reports and schedules must be filed even if no transactions were made during the reporting period. For online filing information relating to filing via EDI and FLT File, see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

All licensed diesel fuel government entities are required to file a tax return/claim for refund which is due on or before the last day of the month following the reporting period. The return must be filed even if no transactions were made during the reporting period.

All licensed diesel fuel exempt bus operators are required to file tax returns and schedules, which are due on or before the last day of the month following the reporting period. The returns and schedules must be filed even if no transactions were made during the reporting period. To file online, you must download CDTFA-501-DB2A, Receipt Schedule, below, complete it, and attach it (upload) during the online filing process. If filing a paper return, the receipt schedule is included with your return.

All licensed petroleum common carriers are required to file an informational report which includes a carrier receipts schedule and a carrier deliveries schedule, which is due on or before the last day of the month following the reporting period. The report and schedules must be filed even if no transactions were made during the reporting period. For online filing information relating to filing via EDI and FLT, see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

Train operators in California are required to report all exempt purchases of undyed diesel fuel, dyed diesel fuel, and motor vehicle fuel for use in this state. The information report and receipt schedule are due on or before the last day of the month following the reporting period. The reports and schedules must be filed even if no transactions were made during the reporting period. For online filing information relating to filing via EDI and FLT, see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

Licensed ultimate vendors sell undyed diesel fuel to the user (ultimate purchaser) for use on a farm for farming purposes or for use in an exempt bus operation without collecting the diesel fuel excise tax. All licensed diesel fuel ultimate vendors are required to file information reports/claim for refunds and schedules, which are due on or before the last day of the month following the reporting period. The reports and schedules must be filed even if no transactions were made during the reporting period. Some ultimate vendors may file form CDTFA-770-DVW, Diesel Fuel Tax Claim for Refund – Sales to Ultimate Purchasers for claim for refund periods of not less than one week and total at least $200. For online filing information relating to filing via EDI and FLT, see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

Diesel fuel exempt sellers file claims for refund of the tax paid on undyed diesel fuel for use outside the state, sold to the U.S. Government, sold to train operators for use in a diesel-powered train or for other off-highway use, or used in operations for purposes other than propelling vehicles on the highway of this state. There is no filing requirement. For online filing information relating to filing via EDI and FLT, see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

Diesel fuel exempt users file claims for refund of tax paid on undyed diesel fuel used in an exempt manner. All transactions claimed must be reported on a receipt schedule or disbursement schedule. There is no filing requirement. For online filing information relating to filing via EDI and FLT, see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

Aircraft jet fuel dealers must file a return and supporting schedules on a monthly basis. The tax return must be filed on or before the last day of the calendar month following the reporting period to which it relates. If paying amounts due by check, the check must be made payable to the State Controller’s Office. For online filing information relating to filing via EDI and FLT, see our Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage. (https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov)

Need to know more? Follow the links below for more information about the topics covered in this guide, as well as other information you might find helpful:

Laws

Regulations

Publications

Exemption Certificates

The following exemption certificates may be submitted online by logging into your customer profile on our online services system. Once you’ve logged into your customer profile, select the applicable account and then under the "I Want To" section, select "More." On the next screen select "submit exemption certificate." (This option will appear differently depending on the type of account you selected.)

Forms

Tax Rates

Special Notices

Public Data

Enforcement/Tax Evasion

Related Websites

Other Helpful Resources

  • Contact Us – A listing of CDTFA contacts for your questions and concerns. If your questions are about the Diesel Exempt Bus Operator or the Diesel Government Entity program, please direct your questions to the Motor Carrier Office:
    Motor Carrier Office, MIC: 65
    California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
    PO Box 942879
    Sacramento, CA 94279-0065
  • Sign Up for CDTFA Updates – Subscribe to our email lists and receive the latest news, newsletters, tax and fee updates, public meeting agendas, and other announcements.
  • Videos and How – To Guides – These resources will help you avoid common mistakes, file your tax returns online, and more.
  • City and County Sales and Use Tax Rates – A listing of current and historical sales and use tax rates.
  • Find a Sales and Use Tax Rate – Enter an address and find the sales and use tax rate for that location.
  • Online Services – Learn about the online services CDTFA offers.
  • Verify a Permit or License – You can use this application to verify a seller's permit, cigarette and tobacco products license, eWaste account, underground storage tank maintenance fee account, diesel fuel and motor vehicle fuel supplier licenses, and aircraft jet fuel dealer permit.
  • Offices Locations and Addresses – A comprehensive listing of all CDTFA offices and contact information.
  • Get It In Writing! – Tax and Fee Laws can be complex, and you are encouraged to put your tax questions in writing. You may also send your request in a letter to: Special Taxes and Fees, MIC:31, California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, P.O. Box 942879, Sacramento, CA 94279-0031.
  • Taxpayers' Rights Advocate (TRA) – The TRA Office helps taxpayers when they are unable to resolve a matter through normal channels, when they want information regarding procedures, or when there are apparent rights violations.