Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax (MVF) – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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About the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax

Please see our Motor Fuels Glossary for a compilation of motor fuels terms.

The motor vehicle tax is owed by the person who owns the motor vehicle fuel when it is entered (imported into California), or removed from a refinery or terminal rack in this state.

The tax is imposed upon each gallon of motor vehicle fuel when it is:

  • Removed from the terminal rack,
  • Removed from the refinery rack,
  • A bulk removal from the refinery when the owner does not hold a valid motor vehicle fuel supplier license with the CDTFA,
  • Imported into California if it is a bulk transfer and the enterer (importer) does not have a valid motor vehicle fuel supplier license with the CDTFA, or the import is not a bulk transfer,
  • Removed or sold to a person who does not hold a valid motor vehicle fuel license with the CDTFA, and the motor vehicle fuel was untaxed,
  • Blended motor vehicle fuel removed or sold by the blender. The number of gallons of blended motor vehicle fuel subject to the tax is the difference between the total number of gallons of blended motor vehicle fuel removed or sold and the number of previously taxed motor vehicle fuel gallons used to produce the blended motor vehicle fuel.

The backup tax is an assessment of tax on fuel when the tax was not previously paid at the rack or has been refunded. The backup tax is assessed on the sale or delivery of motor vehicle fuel into the tank of a motor-vehicle-fuel-powered vehicle or any other liquid on which tax has not been imposed or on the sale of motor vehicle fuel for which a claim for refund has been allowed.

The motor vehicle fuel tax revenue is deposited into the State Transportation Fund. Allocations are made from the fund to the Aeronautics Account, Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund, Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund, Highway Users Tax Fund, and Department of Food and Agriculture Fund. Revenues from this program are used to construct and maintain public roads and mass transit systems, airports and waterways.

Registration

The Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) offers extensive information on local, state, and federal permit requirements. Visit CalGold for help with permit and licensing requirements for other local, state, and federal authorities (for example, you may need to be registered with the Franchise Tax Board or the Employment Development Department).

Also, visit California's Tax Service Center. You may also want to consult a tax professional for assistance on other agencies' requirements.

If you conduct any of the following activities in the State of California, you are required to register as a motor vehicle fuel supplier;

You should notify the CDTFA of any change of mailing or email address, phone or fax number to ensure that information from CDTFA is received timely. Log in to our online services system with a username and password to maintain your contact information, add or close a location, or update your mailing address. You can also use form CDTFA-345-SP, Notice of Business Change, Property and Special Taxes to notify CDTFA of changes.

If you have questions contact CDTFA Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (CRS: 711) Monday through Friday (except state holidays) 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Pacific time), select the option for "Special Taxes and Fees" or email your question to Email Your Tax Questions.

Collecting the Tax

Yes. Include the motor vehicle fuel tax amount in the calculation of your sales and use tax amount.

Exemptions for motor vehicle fuel tax are provided in the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Law Chapter 3 of the Revenue and Taxation Code. In general, the provisions requiring the payment of motor vehicle fuel taxes do not apply to the following:

  • Any entry or removal from a terminal or refinery of motor vehicle fuel transferred in bulk to a refinery or terminal if the persons involved (including the terminal operator) are licensed suppliers.
  • The removal of motor vehicle fuel, if all of the following apply:
    • The motor vehicle fuel is removed by railroad car from an approved refinery and is received at an approved terminal.
    • The refinery and the terminal are operated by the same licensed supplier.
    • The refinery is not served by pipeline (other than a pipeline for the receipt of crude oil) or vessel.
  • Exports of motor vehicle fuel (pursuant to a contract of sale).
  • Fuel sold by credit card to a consulate officer or employee.
  • Fuel sold to the United States armed forces for use in ships or aircraft, or for use outside this state.
  • Gasoline blendstocks:
    1. Removed from a pipeline or vessel, received by a licensed industrial user.
    2. Entered, or removed from a terminal or refinery, and received at an approved terminal or refinery if the person otherwise liable for the tax is a licensed supplier.
    3. Entered, or removed from a terminal or refinery, not in connection with a sale, if the person otherwise liable for the tax is a licensed supplier and the person does not use the gasoline blendstocks to produce finished gasoline.
    4. Entered, or removed from a terminal or refinery, in connection with a sale, if the person otherwise liable for the tax is a licensed supplier and at time of sale, has an unexpired exemption certificate from the buyer.
    5. If paragraph 3 or 4 applied to the removal or entry of gasoline blendstocks, any resale made, when the person has an unexpired exemption certificate from the buyer.
  • Fuel sold to a train operator for use in a motor vehicle fuel-powered train or for other off-highway use and the supplier has on hand an exemption certificate (CDTFA-231-PT) from the train operator.

For detail on the specifics of each of the exemptions listed above, view the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Law Chapter 3.

If you believe you have overpaid your tax liability, there are special rules for filing motor fuel tax claims for refund. Visit "Filing Claims for Refund" for the type that applies to you.

Filing and Making a Payment

We highly encourage you to file your motor fuels tax forms online. For more information on filing online visit Motor Fuels Online Filing webpage.

No. If you are a supplier of both MVF and diesel fuel, you must file separate tax returns as MVF tax and diesel fuel tax are administered under two separate programs. If you file informational reports as a pipeline, vessel, train, or terminal operator, you may report both MVF and diesel fuel on your informational report(s).

How you make a payment depends on the payment method you have selected. Visit the CDTFA’s online Services webpage and select the Payments tab for further information. A payment may be made by an online transmission separate from the return transmission, or it may be included in the online file. See our Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) page for complete information on making electronic payments and the payment methods available.

If your estimated average monthly tax payment will be $20,000 or more, you will be required to pay the tax by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). In addition to paying the motor vehicle fuel tax by EFT by the due date, you must also file the return by the due date. If no amount is owed, a return must still be submitted timely. A delinquent return, failure to pay by EFT, or a late transfer may result in penalty charges. For more information on the EFT program, visit the CDFTA’s Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) website.

Records required to be retained for a period of not less than four years from the time the tax is due unless CDTFA authorizes in writing their destruction sooner.

Filing a Claim for Refund

See our Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Supplier – Filing Claims for Refund webpage for special rules for filing motor vehicle fuel tax claims for refund. Some claims must be filed with the State Controller's Office.

If you are a licensed supplier, you may take a credit for certain types of transactions on your Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Return in lieu of filing a claim for refund with the State Controller's Office; however, you may only take a credit up to the amount of tax you owe on the return.

Refund statutes and time frames are available on CDTFA's website.