A memo circulating among the full-time RVers group, Escapees, has gone viral, creating no end of confusion regarding Arizona diesel fuel taxes. The memo, picked up by at least one RV forum early October 14, would make it appear that motorhome owners who have a rig with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds, or having three or more axles, must fuel at commercial truck islands, and pay a higher tax rate than other RVers. We contacted the Arizona Department of Transportation for clarification, and want to set the record straight.
What confuses the issue is the two-tier tax system the Grand Canyon State uses on diesel road fuel sales. If you stop at a diesel fuel pump at any station in Arizona, you’ll find a warning sticker that suggests you can be subject to a $1,000 minimum fine if you improperly use the lower taxed (18 cents per gallon) diesel fuel intended for ‘small trucks.’ The sticker even mentions the 26,000 pound/3 or more axle “rule.”
But there’s a lot more in the details. We spoke with Arizona Department of Transportation Fuel Tax Manager, Chris Kent on Wednesday the 14th. Kent was able to dig through the finer points of the fuel tax law. Basically the whole issue hinges on two different state statutes. One (28-54320) speaks to “weight fees.” The other, (28-5606) specifies what vehicles must pay the higher motor fuel tax. In a nutshell, the motor fuel tax statute says any, “use class motor vehicle” used on Arizona roadways must pay the higher tax. What makes a “use class motor vehicle”? The devil is in the details.
Of interest to RVers, particularly motorhome owners, is this simple exemption from what makes a “use class motor vehicle.” First, for all RVers, provided your rig has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,000 pounds or less and has but two axles, you’re exempt from “use class,” and hence, exempt from paying the higher tax rate on fuel.
For motorhomes, Arizona DOT’s Kent pointed us to a 2004 agency policy memo, number 13.2.3. Boiled down, the policy says as long as a motorhome has at least four of the following items, it is exempt from “use class” (and higher fuel taxes). Those items include:
“A cooking facility with an on-board fuel source,
“A gas or electric refrigerator
“A toilet with exterior evacuation
“A heating or air-conditioning system with an on-board power or fuel source separate from the vehicle engine
“A portable water supply system that includes at least a sink, a faucet and a water tank with an exterior service supply connection
“A 110-125 volt electric power supply”
If you’ve got at least four of those things, even if your motorhome has a weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds and/or more than three axles, your rig is NOT a “use class” motor vehicle, and thus does NOT have to pay the higher fuel tax rate. One last detail: For your motorhome to meet the ‘lower fuel tax use OK’ test, it must be used for recreational purposes. If used for commercial purposes, once you hit over 26,000 pounds and/or more than two axles, you are stuck paying the higher tax rate.
Updated 10/15/14 to clarify commercial versus recreational use.