Ag’s gasoline tax exemption could changeWritten by Jennifer Womack
HB186 under consideration by the Wyoming Legislature would end up-front exemptions on bulk purchases, instead requiring that agriculturalists file rebate requests with the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WyDOT). The legislation is sponsored by representatives Rodney “Pete” Anderson (R-Pine Bluffs), Mark Semlek (R-Moorcroft) and David Miller (R-Fremont). Semlek ranches near Moorcroft and Anderson has a farming and ranching operation near Pine Bluffs. As of Feb. 11, HB186 had passed the House in a 54 to six vote and been received in the Senate where it was assigned to the Revenue Committee.
“Because of the statutes that have changed through the years and changes in personnel at the WyDOT,” said Anderson, “there’s a lot of confusion on the ag tax exemption.” Of a system that would mirror the present fuel tax refunds on non-dyed diesel, he said, “The white diesel refund has been working fairly well where you apply for what you use off-road. From the agriculturalists I talked to, it seemed fair to them to just get credit for what’s used off road.”
In its present form, agriculturalists approved for the exemption aren’t charged the tax on 70 percent of the gasoline they purchase from their bulk dealer. Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton, whose group opposes HB186, said the percentage dates back to a survey done in the late 1950s that established an average of seventy percent of bulk gasoline purchases are used on-farm.
Semlek told WyFB members meeting in Cheyenne Feb. 9 that the change proposed in HB186 would end the July 1 deadline to submit the paperwork to file for exemptions. “I was one who never got the application in by July 1,” said Semlek. Sometime later he said he’d fill out the paperwork, but wouldn’t be eligible for the exemption until the paperwork was complete and processed.
“I have some concerns that the process is bogged down considerably when you ask for a refund on the non-dyed diesel fuel,” said Niobrara County rancher Kevin Baars at the recent WyFB mid-winter meeting in Cheyenne. He said a similar approach on gasoline could require additional staff to oversee the program and that more money will be spent collecting the tax than is gained.
Anderson said no new positions at WyDOT are called for in the legislation. “The people at WyDOT and the fuel tax people think this will simplify things,” said Anderson. “In statute, it has to be refunded within 60 days.”
HB186, said Hamilton, would result in WyDOT dealing with refunds for a few thousand people instead of the present 30 to 40 bulk dealers. “That’s a tremendous workload and they’ve been testifying in several committees that they’re struggling to keep up on the current workload.”
Anderson also said the change would allow agriculturalists to declare an exemption on fuel purchased at the pump. “If you fill up in town at the pump and then want to take your Cadillac out and fix fence and chase coyotes, you can claim an exemption on whatever portion you use off-road,” said Anderson. That same subject “at the pump purchases” came up in recent sessions as bulk fuel prices surpassed prices at the pump.
“The downside,” said Anderson, “is that the bulk delivery doesn’t take the tax off so you have to pay it to begin with and then ask for a refund.”
Hamilton said the ability to receive a rebate on at the pump purchases might be one opportunity for the ag community in the legislation. “But, as one of our members reminded me, if you take a 100-gallon tank to town 10 times to cover what would be a 1,000 gallon delivery, I’m not sure you’re gaining much.”
“We’re taking a program that’s operated since 1957 in a quick, straightforward way and changing it in a way that diminishes the usefulness to the ag community,” said Hamilton. He said some WyFB members have stopped applying for the rebate on clear diesel because of what he called the “hassle factor.”