Motorists give mixed reaction to refund plan for Missouri fuel tax hike

Gas Tax

(Missouri Independent) – Pump prices for gas and diesel didn’t change much Friday in Missouri, despite being the first day of a 2.5 cents per gallon increase in the state fuel tax.

The cheapest gas in the state was $2.49 a gallon in Springfield, according to GasBuddy.com.  That was unchanged from earlier in the week. The most expensive, AAA of Missouri reports, is in Knox County, where the average price is more than $3. Statewide, motorists were paying an average of $2.88 a gallon to fill up on Friday.

And for many motorists, it is that pump price – up more than $1 since late last year – that’s important. Many did not know that the tax had increased, and some who did said they were not aware that lawmakers included a way to get a refund of the new tax.

Pump prices for gas and diesel didn’t change much Friday in Missouri, despite being the first day of a 2.5 cents per gallon increase in the state fuel tax.

The cheapest gas in the state was $2.49 a gallon in Springfield, according to GasBuddy.com.  That was unchanged from earlier in the week. The most expensive, AAA of Missouri reports, is in Knox County, where the average price is more than $3. Statewide, motorists were paying an average of $2.88 a gallon to fill up on Friday.

And for many motorists, it is that pump price – up more than $1 since late last year – that’s important. Many did not know that the tax had increased, and some who did said they were not aware that lawmakers included a way to get a refund of the new tax.

Exactly what the Department of Revenue will require for motorists who wish to claim the refund is uncertain because the forms have not been created. A question-and-answer page on the department’s website states the forms will be available before the first claims are allowed on July 1.

The amount of any refund for a motorist who owns just one or two vehicles is likely to be less than the cost of a full tank. A motorist who drives 10,000 miles in a vehicle that averages 25 mpg will use 400 gallons of fuel in a year.

That is $10 a year for every 2.5 cents the tax increases.

When told that calculation, the reaction of motorists on Friday was mixed. Stephen Chadwell of Columbia, who did not know about the tax increase or refund, said he would keep his receipts.

“I think for 10 bucks it might be worth it,” Chadwell said. “Ten bucks is 10 bucks.”

The financial estimate prepared for the bill estimated that refunds could be as little as 15 percent of the tax collected or most of it. If 15 percent is refunded, it will reduce revenues by about $175 million over the first five years of the tax.

For Columbia resident Jim Roling, who knew about both the tax increase and the refund provision, tracking purchases and keeping records to make a claim is too much trouble. He said a friend with who he’s discussed the tax has vowed to seek every dollar of refund.

“I am all about $10,” Roling said, “but I’m not going to keep receipts for a year.”

Rudi Keller

https://www.missouriindependent.com

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy, and the legislature. He’s spent 22 of his 30 years in journalism covering Missouri government and politics, most recently as the news editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Keller has won awards for spot news and investigative reporting.