IRS Developing Reporting Requirements for Tank Barge Operators
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is preparing to implement a reporting system requiring tank barge operators to file monthly reports on deliveries of taxable fuel to and from bulk liquid terminals. The program, dubbed ExSTARS (for Excise Summary Terminal Accounting and Reporting System), is part of a comprehensive IRS initiative to deter evasion of the federal excise tax on fuel products. The IRS estimates excise tax fraud costs the U.S. taxpayer more than $1 billion annually.
The federal excise tax is paid by the position holder of record when taxable fuel such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc., leaves a terminal in non-bulk form (i.e., by railcar or truck). Under federal statute and IRS regulation, the IRS has the authority to require information reporting by "any persons it deems necessary" to administer the excise tax program.
ExSTARS is designed to track fuel products passing through IRS-numbered terminals and allowing for comparison of fuel volumes with federal excise tax returns. Under the ExSTARS program, information supplied by carriers, including tank barge, tanker, and pipeline operators, will be used to cross-check information supplied by terminals. Carriers will be required to submit monthly Fuel Transaction Reports detailing deliveries into and out of IRS-numbered terminals. The information to be reported will include delivery date, type of product, and volume shipped, based on the best information available to the carrier.
The IRS plans four reporting options. Any carrier may choose to report via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), via an IRS Web site allowing for electronic filing, or via a third-party processing agent authorized by the IRS to file on a company's behalf. Operators with fewer than a specified number of transactions per month will be permitted to file paper reports, but the IRS has not yet determined what the threshold for paper filing will be.
The program will be rolled out this summer and will become fully operational in February 2001. A notice formally establishing the program requirements is tentatively scheduled for June 2000. Carriers will be responsible for collecting and reporting data beginning in September 2000; however, operators will have until February 28, 2001, to submit reports for the period of September 2000-February 2001. February 2001 also marks the date when the IRS plans to have the website and third-party reporting options fully operational, and the date when penalties for failure to report will be imposed