Month: July 2012

Florida extends aircraft maintenance tax exemptions

Florida legislators wisely passed a law that expanded the pre-existing tax exemption for aircraft maintenance costs, including equipment used in repairs. This is great news for general aviation aircraft owners and business aircraft operators. The law was initially passed by the Florida House of Representatives in February 2012, and has been in effect since July 2012.

Under the old Florida law, the maintenance tax exemption was applicable to aircraft weighing more than 15,000 pounds (rotary aircraft weighing over 10,000 pounds). This meant that most light-weight, corporate, and private aircraft were subject to in-state maintenance and repair tax, and small aircraft owners took their business elsewhere accordingly. The new law reduces the weight limit to 2,000 pounds, considerably broadening the types of aircraft that fit in under the state tax exemption.

This revision is a home run for the Florida general aviation community in a sluggish economy. With this new tax exemption there are rising hopes that Florida can return to its leadership role in attracting general aviation contractors and related small businesses. Florida is now one of 32 states to have passed significant aviation-based tax exemptions in the last few years. Both lawmakers, and local business leaders, expect an immediate boost in employment, maintenance traffic, and production.

Rep. Stephen L. Precourt, chairman of the Finance and Tax Committee, introduced the new tax exemption law as a bill, and moved it directly to the House late last year. However, the bill was initially created based on provisions provided by two separate bills, introduced by House Rep. Steve Crisafulli, and Senator Mike Bennett. Their goal was to expand sales, use tax, and maintenance tax exemptions to encourage economic growth in the industry. The new tax exemption bill, formally known as HB7087, was heavily supported by local organizations such as the Florida Aviation Trade Association (FATA), the Florida Airports Council (FAC), and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA).

IRS Federal Excise Tax Surprise – New Rules For Aircraft Management Companies?

IRS Federal Excise Tax
IRS excise tax & aircraft management companies:  and you thought the catering was exempt

The IRS’ new view of federal excise tax on aircraft management services in unwelcome indeed. To recap, in an IRS Chief Counsel Memorandum Re Federal Excise Tax and Aircraft Management Companies, the IRS is taking the position that aircraft services such as hiring and providing pilots and management services, even for part 91 aircraft, are “amounts paid” for “transportation services” and therefore subject to federal excise tax.  This in essence has the potential to raise general aviation services costs by 7.5%, a federal excise tax surprise that neither aircraft management companies nor aircraft owners need in this environment.

It has never been disputed that ” amounts paid” for commercial flights under Parts 121 or 135 are subject to excise tax as “taxable transportation”, and the price and availability of these flights reflect this.  Part 91 owners and operators make a conscious decision to assume more risk in retaining “operational control” of their flights and pay management companies for collateral services in making pilots, fuel and services available.  We could be left under the IRS’ new policy where a private aircraft owner would have to pay excise tax for flights over which he still has full legal liability.  This is clearly a surprise when it comes to federal excise tax, for the owners and aircraft management company alike.

Unfortunately there is also a “gotcha” factor here.  One might conclude that the IRS’ apparent aggressiveness with respect to auditing, and potentially assessing, federal excise tax against aircraft management companies is designed to catch us off guard.  There are a couple of problems with this.  First, a Chief Counsel opinion details the Service’s interpretation of existing law.  It is not equivalent to the Internal Revenue Code, regulations or Tax Court decisions, and therefore forms a questionable basis upon which to set aircraft management companies up for formal federal excise tax audits.  Second, if in time aircraft management companies are deemed to be receiving “amounts paid for taxable transportation” for support services, the industry must be given some reasonable opportunity to adjust to this without facing retroactive application of a brand-new interpretation along with the interest and penalties that go with it.

Call me for a free phone consultation if you think you may be subject to the new federal excise tax rules.  877.771.1131