Publication 378
Fuel Tax Credits and Refunds
(Revised: 12/2002)

Foreign Trade

A credit or refund may be allowed for the excise tax on fuel used in foreign trade.

Used in foreign trade means used in civil aircraft employed in foreign trade or trade between the United States and any of its possessions. In the case of aircraft registered in a foreign country, the country must allow reciprocal benefits for aircraft registered in the United States.

Helicopter and Fixed-Wing Air Ambulance

A credit or refund may be allowed for the excise tax on fuel used for certain helicopter and fixed-wing air ambulance uses.

Certain helicopter uses.   Fuel is used in a qualifying helicopter use when the helicopter is used for any of the following purposes.

  1. Transporting individuals, equipment, or supplies in the exploration for, or the development or removal of, hard minerals, oil, or gas.
  2. Planting, cultivating, cutting, transporting, or caring for trees (including logging operations).
  3. Providing emergency medical services.

During a use described in items (1) and (2), the helicopter must not take off from, or land at, a facility eligible for assistance under the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, or otherwise use services provided pursuant to section 44509 or 44913(b) or subchapter I of chapter 471 of title 49, United States Code. For item (1), treat each flight segment as a separate flight.

Fixed-wing air ambulance uses.   Fuel is used in a qualifying fixed-wing air ambulance use when the aircraft is providing emergency medical services. The aircraft must be equipped for and exclusively dedicated on that flight to acute care emergency medical services.

State or Local Government

A credit or refund may be allowed for the excise tax on fuel used or sold for use by a state or local government.

CAUTION: If undyed diesel fuel or undyed kerosene is used by a state, the claim is made by the registered ultimate vendor.

The fuel must be purchased by the state or local government for its exclusive use. A state or local government is any state, any political subdivision thereof, or the District of Columbia. An Indian tribal government is treated as a state only if the fuel is used in an activity that involves the exercise of an essential tribal government function. The use of gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosene by the American Red Cross is considered to be the use of these fuels by a state.

Commercial Aviation

A credit or refund may be allowed for the excise tax on fuel used in commercial aviation (other than foreign trade).

Commercial aviation means the use of an aircraft in the business of transporting persons or property by air for pay. However, commercial aviation does not include any of the following.

  • Any use of an aircraft that has a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 6,000 pounds or less unless the aircraft is operated on an established line.
  • Any use exclusively for the purpose of skydiving.
  • Any use of an aircraft owned or leased by a member of an affiliated group and unavailable for hire by nonmembers of the group. The determination of whether an aircraft is available for hire by nonmembers is made on a flight-by-flight basis.


A credit or refund may be allowed for the excise tax on fuel used in a train.

Use in a train means use in the propulsion engine of equipment or machinery that rides on rails. This includes use in a locomotive, work train, switching engine, and track maintenance machine.

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