How to save money with the fuel tax increase

Charles Dunlap

Motorists across Missouri started seeing higher gas prices last Friday.

The first of five annual gas tax increases of 2.5 cents per gallon takes effect, reaching a total increase of 12.5 cents by 2025.

The increases were approved in Senate Bill 262.

Missouri currently has the second-lowest fuel tax in the country at 17 cents, behind Alaska at 8 cents. Friday's increase will bring Missouri's gas tax to 19.5 cents. 

There is a way for Missourians to get that increased tax money back, though. The bill includes a refund program for highway vehicles under 26,000 pounds and non-highway vehicles such as farm equipment.

Columbia gas prices are the highest among what AAA classifies as metro areas in Missouri, the travel association reports.

The most recent figures show Columbia drivers are paying an average of $2.99 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel, compared to the statewide average of $2.87.

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John Adams, a student at Battle High School, buys fuel on Thursday at a Columbia gas station during his lunch hour. The fuel tax in Missouri is set to rise 2.5 cents per gallon Friday. “I don’t really like it for the simple fact that I have to spend more to fill up my truck. It takes me $41 to fill up my truck instead of the normal $35 I was paying a year or so ago,” Adams said of increased gas prices.

"It is hard to pinpoint exact reasons (why Columbia prices are higher), but in general the major ones are distribution and marketing for the specific gas stations and also refining prices," said Nick Chabarria, AAA public affairs specialist.

The statewide average price is 99 cents more per gallon compared to one year ago.

The distance the fuel has to travel to reach gas stations in Columbia and the contracts gas stations have with distributors are part of what affects the price.

"There are a series of terminals and distribution centers throughout the U.S. where refined gasoline comes — typically up from the Gulf of Mexico to the Midwest refineries — and then is sent out to local gas stations from the distribution centers," Chabarria said. 

Prices will fluctuate, and there are times when places like St. Louis or Kansas City will have higher prices than Columbia, he said. It depends on the oil market, he added. 

Contracts gas stations have with distribution centers could be monthly or even for a couple of weeks, which also plays into the price fluctuations, Chabarria said. 

How can I get my Missouri fuel tax refund? 

Jim Inbody, of Findley, Ohio, pumps gas at a Columbia gas station on Thursday while on his way to a wedding in Kansas City.  Inbody says he didn’t get gas in Illinois and waited to get to Missouri for cheaper gas. “Everything's going up. Eggs are going up. Thanks Biden for shutting down the pipeline,” Inbody said. The fuel tax in Missouri is set to rise 2.5 cents per gallon Friday, with the tax rising 2.5 cents each year through 2025.

The first major step toward getting a refund is to keep your receipts.

AAA supported SB 262 because of what it will do for Missouri roadways.

“Once fully implemented, the new gas tax is expected to raise more than $450 million for state and local transportation projects, which will undoubtedly improve roadway conditions and safety for all Missouri road users," Chabarria said.

"Any Missouri drivers who maybe don't agree with the increase or would like to receive a refund can hold onto their gas receipts."

Fuel-ups in vehicles less than 26,000 pounds are eligible to receive the tax refund. Receipts dated between Friday and June 30, 2022 will be needed. Residents then can apply for the refund from between July 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2022.

The refund period restarts with each subsequent increase on Oct. 1 of each year. Refunds will still be available in the years after full implementation of the total tax increase of 12.5 cents by 2025. In other words, you can still apply for refunds in 2026, 2027 and beyond. 

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The refund form will be available on the Missouri Department of Revenue website prior to July 1, 2022. 

In addition to receipts, Missouri drivers making a refund claim must also provide:

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN) of the motor vehicle filled up;
  • Date of sale;
  • Name and address of purchaser;
  • Name and address of seller;
  • Number of gallons purchased; and
  • Number of gallons purchased and charged Missouri fuel tax, as a separate item.

The Missouri Department of Revenue is developing an online tool to electronically file claims. Missouri drivers who file claims must keep receipts for at least three years in case the Department of Revenue needs to inspect them.

There is a separate refund application for non-highway vehicles.

More information on SB 262 and the refund program is available through a Frequently Asked Questions webpage from the Department of Revenue.