How to apply for IFTA license and decals

How to apply for IFTA license and decals

  • An IFTA license and decals streamline the payment of fuel taxes to multiple jurisdictions
  • If you operate across two or more states, you might be subject to the IFTA license requirement
  • Automate IFTA reporting with a comprehensive fleet management solution

When IFTA came about, it greatly simplified state and (and, for Canada, province) fuel taxes for interstate commercial carriers. It is now a practical requirement that carriers crossing two or more state or provincial lines need to be licensed by IFTA and display current IFTA decals.

Obtaining IFTA licensing is a relatively simple procedure, and it is a must if you meet the qualifications.

What is IFTA?

IFTA is an acronym for International Fuel Tax Agreement. It is an agreement adopted in 1996 that allows for the collection and redistribution of fuel taxes paid by interstate commercial carriers.

Truckers have always been required to pay fuel taxes in the states where they traveled, no matter where the fuel was purchased. Each state charges its own fuel tax rate. Prior to IFTA, carriers had to register in each state across which they traveled and affix decals to their vehicles, showing that they had registered. The trucking company was then responsible to see that the proper fuel taxes were paid to the proper states or provinces, or refunds collected, if they were due. It often became an administrative nightmare.

IFTA greatly simplified this process. Forty-eight American states (excluding Alaska, Hawaii and the District of Columbia) and 10 Canadian provinces (excluding the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon) participate in the agreement. A carrier obtains a single IFTA license for their vehicle or vehicles. They are then allowed to travel through all IFTA jurisdictions, and are only required to submit one quarterly fuel tax return to their base jurisdiction.

Who needs an IFTA license and decals?

An IFTA qualified motor vehicle is one built and used to transport property or people and:

  • Has two axles and a gross vehicle weight of over 11,797 kilograms or 26,000 pounds, or
  • Of any weight, with 3 or more axles, or
  • Is used in combination and has a weight that exceeds 11,797 kilograms or 26,000 pounds.

Any carrier operating a vehicle or vehicles fitting any of the above descriptions likely require an IFTA license if they are based in a member state or province, and operate across two or more member states or provinces.

How to obtain an IFTA license and decals

Obtaining an IFTA license and decals are important steps in becoming a successful owner operator. If your company requires an IFTA license, you need to apply in your base state. License application forms can be found online (it differs by each state), and are administered by the Department of Transportation for your state, tax collection agency, or other agency. Search online for “IFTA application [name of your state].”

Sometimes application forms serve dual purposes, such as applying for additional decals or to make account changes.

Basic information required by the application includes:

  • USDOT number
  • Registered business name
  • Mailing address
  • Federal business number

Once your application is processed, your state or provincial IFTA authority will issue official IFTA decals for the current year. You can receive a temporary license by fax while your decals are being sent.

How long does the IFTA license last?

An IFTA license and decals expire on Dec. 31 of each year. You are allowed until March 1 of the following year before you must carry a current IFTA license, and display current decals on your vehicles.

How many decals do you need?

You will be provided two IFTA decals for each licensed vehicle. You need to display one on each side of your truck cab.

Calculating IFTA reporting

Once you are licensed, you must file a quarterly IFTA fuel tax return with your base state. Return deadlines are:

  • 1st quarter (Jan. to March)—April 30
  • 2nd quarter (April to June)—July 31
  • 3rd quarter (July to Sept.)—Oct. 31
  • 4th quarter (Oct. to Dec.)—Jan. 31

You will be required to track your miles for each state. Fleet managers and drivers must work together to make sure the amount of fuel consumed for each state or province is accurately recorded. Whenever drivers cross state or province lines, they should record odometer readings.

Fuel purchases must be accurately recorded as well. These consist of the total gallons of fuel purchased in each state or province. It is up to the carrier to retain original receipts or invoices to prove that fuel tax was paid.

Once total miles per state or province and fuel purchases have been calculated, the fuel miles for each jurisdiction must be calculated. An easy formula with which to make this calculation is:

Total miles driven ÷ total gallons = overall fuel mileage

To calculate gallons of fuel consumed in each jurisdiction, you can input your overall fuel mileage into this formula:

Total miles driven in (specific state or province) ÷ overall fuel mileage = fuel consumed in (specific state or province)

The fuel purchases per state or province are the metrics you need to calculate the fuel tax your company owes each jurisdiction. This calculation is dependent on the applicable rates during the IFTA quarter. Fuel tax rates for each fuel type and state or province can be viewed on the IFTA website. Note that you shouldn’t perform the calculation until then, as the rates are subject to change.

The formula, finally, for calculating the actual amount owed each state or province is:

Fuel tax required in (specific state or province) – fuel tax paid in (specific state or province) = fuel tax owed to (specific state or province)

How doesKeepTruckin simplify IFTA reporting?

Traditionally, vehicle miles and fuel purchases had to be reconciled manually. Everything, from fuel purchase receipts to miles driven in each state or province must be accounted for. Drivers can use the tax reporting worksheet from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) to track fuel purchases, miles driven, states or provinces, and routes traveled.

KeepTruckin offers automatic IFTA reporting that allows for automatic monitoring and sorting of fuel purchases and costs for each state or province.

Fuel purchase data can be uploaded in one of two ways. A CSV file from fuel card providers such as EFS or Comdata can be directly uploaded through KeepTruckin’s integration. Alternatively, drivers can manually submit their fuel purchases as well as upload pictures of fuel purchase receipts from the KeepTruckin app. You won’t dread IFTA reporting anymore.

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Obtain your IFTA licenses and decals

If you own and/or operate a commercial truck or fleet that meet IFTA qualifications, you will need an IFTA license and decals to display on each vehicle. They are obtained through your state or provincial agency. You must then track your mileage in each state or province, and keep track of your fuel usage in each. Tracking and reporting is made considerably more accurate and easy through the use of an app such as the KeepTrucking Fuel Tax Reporting app.

For more information on IFTA, read our guide on everything you need to know about IFTA.

Disclaimer: All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, does not constitute financial, business, or legal advice. Although KeepTruckin strives to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any professional, legal, business and financial or tax-related decisions.

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Bruce Boyers

Bruce Boyers is a veteran writer with more than 20 years' experience. He specializes in trucking and transportation and is a diesel fuel expert.

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