Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax (MVF) – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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About the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax

The motor vehicle tax is owed by the person who owns the motor vehicle fuel when a taxable event occurs (the tax is assessed). The motor vehicle fuel tax is imposed on each gallon of motor vehicle fuel entered, or removed from a refinery or terminal rack in this state.

The tax is assessed upon each gallon of motor vehicle fuel when it is:

  • Removed from the terminal rack,
  • Removed from the refinery rack,
  • A bulk removal from the refinery when the owner is not a motor vehicle fuel registrant,
  • An entry of motor vehicle fuel into this state if it is a bulk transfer and the enterer is not a motor vehicle fuel registrant or is not a bulk transfer,
  • A removal or sale to a unregistered person,
  • A removal or sale of blended fuel when a portion of the blended fuel is ex-tax.

The backup tax is an assessment of tax on fuel when the tax was not previously paid at the rack or has been refunded. The backup tax is assessed on the sale or delivery of motor vehicle fuel into the tank of a motor-vehicle-fuel-powered vehicle of any other liquid on which tax has not been imposed or on the sale of motor vehicle fuel for which a claim for refund has been allowed.

Common Industry terms defined:

What does rack mean?

The "rack" is a mechanism used for delivering fuel from a refinery or terminal into a truck, trailer, rail car, or other means of non-bulk transfer. The incidence of the tax for California MVF and diesel fuel tax is when fuel is removed across the rack or imported below the rack.

What does bulk transfer mean?

"Bulk transfer" means any transfer of motor vehicle fuel by pipeline or vessel.

What does blender mean?

You are a blender if you produce or convert blended MVF outside the bulk transfer/terminal system. The bulk transfer system is the MVF distribution system consisting of refineries, pipelines, vessels, and terminals.

What does enterer mean?

You are an enterer if you are the importer of record (under federal customs law) with respect to MVF. If the importer of record is acting as an agent, the person for whom the agent is acting is the enterer. If there is no importer of record of MVF entered into this state, the owner of the MVF at the time it is brought into this state is the enterer.

What does position holder mean?

You are a position holder if you hold inventory in MVF, as reflected on the records of the terminal operator. A person holds the inventory position in MVF when that person has a contractual agreement with the terminal operator for the use of storage facilities and terminaling services at a terminal with respect to the MVF. "Position holder" includes a terminal operator that owns MVF in its terminal.

What does refiner mean?

You are a refiner if you own, operate, or otherwise control a refinery.

What does terminal operator mean?

You are a terminal operator if you own, operate, or otherwise control a terminal.

What does throughputter mean?

You are a throughputter if you own MVF within the bulk transfer/terminal system (other than in a terminal) or are a position holder.

What does pipeline operator mean?

You are a pipeline operator if you own, operate, or otherwise control a pipeline.

What is a vessel operator?

You are a vessel operator if you operate or otherwise control a vessel.

What is a train operator?

You are a train operator if you own, operate, or control a train and are licensed as a railroad by a state or federal agency. You must obtain a license from CDTFA in order to issue an exemption certificate.

What is an industrial user?

You are an industrial user if you receive gasoline blendstocks by bulk transfer for your own use in the manufacture of any product other than finished gasoline. You may issue an exemption certificate for blendstocks that will not be used to produce finished gasoline. As an industrial user, you will not be required to file a return/report with CDTFA.

What are gasoline blendstocks?

Gasoline blendstocks are any petroleum product component of gasoline.

What is an exemption certificate?

An exemption certificate is a document in a form prescribed by CDTFA that states that the MVF or MVF blendstocks will not be used to produce finished gasoline. The certificate is provided by a buyer and consists of a statement that is signed under penalty of perjury by a person with authority to bind the buyer.

The motor vehicle fuel tax revenue is deposited into the State Transportation Fund. Allocations are made from the fund to the Aeronautics Account, Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund, Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund, Highway Users Tax Fund, and Department of Food and Agriculture Fund. Revenues from this program are used to construct and maintain public roads and mass transit systems, airports and waterways.


If you are a supplier, you are required to register, file a return, and pay.

If you are a terminal operator, pipeline operator, vessel operator; or train operator, you are required to register and file a report.

A supplier can be any of the following blender, enterer, position holder, refiner, terminal operator, throughputter.

In addition, an industrial user is required to be licensed before engaging in business.

You may register for a permit, license, account, or other tax/fee program using CDTFA's online registration system. Online registration is a convenient, fast, and free way to register and is available 24 hours a day. Select "New Registration" to get started. The CDTFA website has more information to help you complete an application.

You may also register in person at one of our office locations. If you have questions, please contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Pacific time, excluding state holidays.

If you sell both motor vehicle and diesel fuel, you should register for both programs during the registration process.

A motor vehicle fuel licensee may also need to obtain a Seller's Permit from CDTFA. You will be able to register for both permits using CDTFA's online registration system.

The Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) offers extensive information on state, local, and federal permit requirements. For a listing of its assistance centers, visit the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development website.

Visit CalGold for help with permit and licensing requirements for other state, federal, and local authorities (for example, you may need to be registered with the Franchise Tax Board or the Employment Development Department).

See also California's Tax Service Center. You may also want to consult a tax professional for assistance on other agencies' requirements.

If you conduct any of the following activities in the State of California, you are required to register as a motor vehicle fuel supplier;

Taxpayers should notify CDTFA of any change of address, phone or fax number to ensure that returns, and information from CDTFA are received timely. Use form CDTFA-345-SP, Notice of Business Change, Property and Special Taxes to notify CDTFA of changes.

If you have questions contact CDTFA Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (TTY: 711) Monday through Friday (except state holidays) 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Pacific time), select the option for "Special Taxes and Fees" or email your question to Email Your Tax Questions.

Collecting the Tax

The current and historical MVF excise tax, sales tax, and prepayment of sales tax rates are available on CDTFA's website under Sales Tax Rates for Fuels.

The rate may change on July 1 of each year so you should check the website for the most current rate. CDTFA will notify you when the rate changes by email so it's important to keep a current email address on file.

Yes. Include the motor vehicle fuel tax amount in the calculation of your sales and use tax amount.

In general, the payment of motor vehicle fuel taxes does not apply to the following:

  • Any entry or removal from a terminal or refinery of motor vehicle fuel transferred in bulk to a refinery or terminal if the persons involved (including the terminal operator) are licensed suppliers.
  • The removal of motor vehicle fuel, if all of the following apply:
    • The motor vehicle fuel is removed by railroad car from an approved refinery and is received at an approved terminal.
    • The refinery and the terminal are operated by the same licensed supplier.
    • The refinery is not served by pipeline (other than a pipeline for the receipt of crude oil) or vessel.
  • Exports of motor vehicle fuel.
  • Fuel sold by credit card to a consulate officer or employee.
  • Fuel sold to the United States armed forces for use in ships or aircraft, or for use outside this state.
  • Certain gasoline blendstocks sold to or by a licensed supplier or user.
  • Fuel sold to a train operator for use in a motor-vehicle-fuel-powered train or other off-highway use and the supplier has on hand an exemption certificate (CDTFA-231-PT) from the train operator.

For more detail on the specifics of each of the exemptions listed above, visit the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Law Chapter on Exemptions.

If you believe you have overpaid your tax liability, there are special rules for filing motor fuel tax claims for refund. Visit "Filing Claims for Refund" for the type that applies to you.

Filing and Making a Payment

The reports or return and tax are due on the last day of the month following the close of the reporting period (ex. October 31 for the period of September).

Vessel, pipeline, and train operators are required to file monthly informational reports.

Motor fuels tax forms are required to be filed electronically with CDTFA's Motor Fuels Online Filing Program. An exemption from the Motor Fuels Online Filing can be requested by submitting an Efiling Exemption Request form. The form can be requested by email. For more information on filing electronically visit Motor Fuels Online Filing Program.

No. If you are a supplier of both MVF and diesel fuel, you must file separate tax returns as MVF tax and diesel fuel tax are administered under two separate programs. If you file informational reports as a pipeline, vessel, train, or terminal operator, you may report both MVF and diesel fuel on your informational report(s).

There are several options for paying any tax amount due. You can easily and conveniently make your payment online. Select the "Make a Payment" tab on our website. You can also pay by credit card or electronic funds transfer (EFT) at "Make a Payment" or by calling 1-855-292-8931 (for credit card payments). Please note that a service fee of 2.3% of the transaction amount will be charged by the credit card processing vendor. This service fee is retained by the vendor and is not revenue to CDTFA. The minimum fee is $1.00.

Motor Fuels Online Filing Program participants are required to make online payments for any amounts due. In addition to paying the motor vehicle fuel tax online by the due date, you must also electronically file the return by the due date. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or state holiday, payments postmarked or received by the next business day will be considered timely. If no tax is owed, a return must still be submitted timely. A delinquent return, failure to pay by EFT, or a late transfer will result in penalty charges.

Motor Fuels Online Filing Program participants are required to make online payments for any amounts due.

If your estimated average monthly tax payment will be $20,000 or more, you will be required to pay the tax by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). If you are not required to make tax payments through EFT, you can do so on a voluntary basis. You must submit an Authorization Agreement for Electronic Funds Transfer form CDTFA-555-ST to enroll in EFT.

In addition to paying the motor vehicle fuel tax by EFT by the due date, you must also file the return by the due date. If no amount is owed, a return must be submitted timely. A delinquent return, failure to pay by EFT, or a late transfer will result in penalty charges. For more information on the EFT program, visit the CDFTA website and click on the "Make a Payment" tab then select Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) Information.

Records required to be retained must be preserved for a period of not less than four years from the time the tax is due unless CDTFA authorizes in writing their destruction sooner.

There are special rules for filing motor vehicle fuel tax claims for refund and they are listed on CDTFA's website. Some claims must be filed with the State Controller's Office.

If you are a licensed supplier, you may take a credit for certain types of transactions on your Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Return in lieu of filing a claim for refund with the State Controller's Office; however, you may only take a credit up to the amount of tax you owe on the return.

Refund statutes and time frames are available on CDTFA's website.