The U.S. Government Taxes Air Travel

This is from a series of pages on sources of federal war spending other than the federal income tax and strategies that war tax resisters can use to reduce their support of the government in these areas.

The Excise Tax on Air Travel


There is a 7.5% federal excise tax on the price of an airline ticket. In addition, for every domestic flight, or leg of a flight, that begins and ends in the United States there is an excise tax ($3.70); for flights that begin or end in Alaska or Hawaii the charge is higher ($8.10); for international flights that begin or end in the United States, the charge is higher still ($16.10). There are also excise taxes on airplane fuel.

Amount of the Tax

As of , these are the federal excise tax rates on air travel:

  • there is a 7.5% tax on the ticket price
  • the tax on the domestic segment of taxable air transportation is $3.70 (unless the flight is to or from a rural airport, in which case there is no segment-based excise tax)
  • the tax on international flights that begin or end in the United States is $16.10 ($16.30 in )
  • the tax on departures of interstate flights that begin or end in Alaska or Hawaii is $8.10 ($8.20 in )

These excise taxes are adjusted annually for inflation.

Here is an example from the “form 720” instructions, using 2009’s excise tax amounts: “In , Frank Jones pays $265.20 to a commercial airline for a flight in January from Washington to Chicago with an intermediate stop in Cleveland. The flight comprises two segments. The price includes the $240 fare and $25.20 excise tax [($240 × 7.5%) + (2 × $3.60)] for which Frank is liable. The airline collects the tax from Frank and pays it over to the government.”

There are also excise taxes on the fuel used in air transportation, but these are covered on another page.

How Much the Government Collects

It is difficult to determine from the government’s accounting just how much it collects from these various fees, but a budget report puts it somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 billion.

How This Tax Is Collected

The company receiving the payment for air transportation services must collect and pay over the tax and file the return.

As with the telephone excise tax, this company is merely supposed to collect and pass-through the tax, and if a passenger refuses to pay, the company is supposed to report this to the IRS at the same time as the company files its excise tax return. This report must include the name and address of the tax refuser, the type of service rendered by the company, the price of the ticket, and the date.

Are the Tax Receipts Earmarked?

Some of the tax is destined for the Airport & Airway Trust Fund, and some for the general fund.

How Can You Resist This Tax?

Obviously, you can avoid contributing to taxes on air travel by not travelling by air, using ground transportation instead or staying closer to home.

The law seems to leave open the possibility of refusing to pay the excise tax at the time of ticket purchase, but we’ve never heard of anyone attempting to do this, and the usual process for ticket purchasing doesn’t seem to have a juncture at which a resister can make such a refusal. This is an experiment that remains to be tried.

See Also

Some bits and pieces from here and there:

  • The JustSeeds Artists’ Cooperative is selling a war tax resistance propaganda poster produced by the War Resisters League, in the early 1980s (they believe).
  • A website calling itself IRS Doghouse aims to let people rate and check up on the ratings of IRS employees.