State and federal fuel taxes: The road ahead for U.S. infrastructure funding

Taxes on gasoline and diesel are the primary sources of transportation funding at the state and federal level. Due to inflation and improved fuel efficiency, these taxes are increasingly inadequate to maintain the transportation system. In most states and at the federal level, the real fuel tax rates decrease because they are fixed at a cents-per-gallon amount rather than indexed to inflation. In this paper, we provide a forecast on state and federal tax revenue based on different fuel taxation policies such as indexing to inflation, imposing a sales tax on gasoline and diesel, or using a mileage fee on vehicles. We compare how those taxation policies perform compared to the policies states use currently under different macroeconomic conditions relating to the price of oil, economic growth, and vehicle miles traveled. The baselines projections indicate that between 2015 and 2040, fuel tax revenue will decrease 52.2%-54.9% in states that do not index taxes to inflation and 22.6%-22.9% that do currently index to inflation. Switching to a mileage fee increases revenue between 15.6%-26.9% in 2040 compared to 2015. Indexing fuel taxes to inflation in addition to imposing a states' sales tax increases revenue significantly but suffers from a continuous decline in the long-run due to increased fuel efficiency. Our results indicate that although a mileage fee is politically and technologically difficult to achieve, it avoids a declining tax revenue in the long-run.

Issue Date:
Apr 02 2016
Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-04-26

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