4.   Communications and Air Transportation Taxes

Excise taxes are imposed on amounts paid for certain facilities and services. If you receive any payment on which tax is imposed, you are required to collect the tax, file returns, and pay the tax over to the government.

If you fail to collect and pay over the taxes, you may be liable for the trust fund recovery penalty. See chapter 14, later.

Uncollected Tax Report

A separate report is required to be filed by collecting agents of communications services and air transportation taxes if the person from whom the facilities or services tax (the tax) is required to be collected (the taxpayer) refuses to pay the tax, or it is impossible for the collecting agent to collect the tax. The report must contain the name and address of the taxpayer, the type of facility provided or service rendered, the amount paid for the facility or service (the amount on which the tax is based), and the date paid.

Regular method taxpayers.   For regular method taxpayers, the report must be filed by the due date of the Form 720 on which the tax would have been reported.

Alternative method taxpayers.   For alternative method taxpayers, the report must be filed by the due date of the Form 720 that includes an adjustment to the separate account for the uncollected tax. See Alternative method in  
chapter 11.

Where to file.    Do not file the uncollected tax report with Form 720. Instead, mail the report to:

Internal Revenue Service 
Excise Tax Program 
SE:S:SP:EX MS C9-109 
5000 Ellin Rd. 
Lanham, MD 20706

Communications Tax

A 3% tax is imposed on amounts paid for local telephone service and teletypewriter exchange service.

Local telephone service.   This includes access to a local telephone system and the privilege of telephonic quality communication with most people who are part of the system. Local telephone service also includes any facility or services provided in connection with this service. The tax applies to lease payments for certain customer premises equipment (CPE) even though the lessor does not also provide access to a local telecommunications system.

Local-only service.   Local-only service is local telephone service as described above, provided under a plan that does not include long distance telephone service or that separately states the charge for local service on the bill to customers. Local-only service also includes any facility or services provided in connection with this service, even though these services and facilities may also be used with long-distance service.

Private communication service.   Private communication service is not local telephone service. Private communication service includes accessory-type services provided in connection with a Centrex, PBX, or other similar system for dual use accessory equipment. However, the charge for the service must be stated separately from the charge for the basic system, and the accessory must function, in whole or in part, in connection with intercommunication among the subscriber's stations.

Teletypewriter exchange service.   This includes access from a teletypewriter or other data station to a teletypewriter exchange system and the privilege of intercommunication by that station with most persons having teletypewriter or other data stations in the same exchange system.

Figuring the tax.   The tax is based on the sum of all charges for local telephone service included in the bill. However, if the bill groups individual items for billing and tax purposes, the tax is based on the sum of the individual items within that group. The tax on the remaining items not included in any group is based on the charge for each item separately. Do not include in the tax base state or local sales or use taxes that are separately stated on the taxpayer's bill.

Exemptions

Payments for certain services or payments from certain users are exempt from the communications tax.

Nontaxable service.   Nontaxable service means bundled service and long distance service. Nontaxable service also includes pre-paid telephone cards and pre-paid cellular service.

Bundled service.   Bundled service is local and long distance service provided under a plan that does not separately state the charge for the local telephone service. Bundled service includes plans that provide both local and long distance service for either a flat monthly fee or a charge that varies with the elapsed transmission time for which the service is used. Telecommunications companies provide bundled service for both landlines and wireless (cellular) service. If Voice over Internet Protocol service provides both local and long distance service and the charges are not separately stated, such service is bundled service.

  The method for sending or receiving a call, such as on a landline telephone, wireless (cellular), or some other method, does not affect whether a service is local-only or bundled.

Long distance service.   Long distance service is telephonic quality communication with persons whose telephones are outside the local telephone system of the caller.

Pre-paid telephone cards (PTC).   A PTC will be treated as bundled service unless a PTC expressly states it is for local-only service. Generally, the person responsible for collecting the tax is the carrier who transfers the PTC to the transferee. The transferee is the first person that is not a carrier to whom a PTC is transferred by the carrier. The transferee is the person liable for the tax and is eligible to request a credit or refund. For more information, see Regulations section 49.4251-4.

  The holder is the person that purchases a PTC to use and not to resell. Holders are not liable for the tax and cannot request a credit or refund.

Pre-paid cellular telephones.   Rules similar to the PTC rules described above apply to pre-paid cellular telephones. The transferee is the person eligible to request the credit or refund.

Installation charges.   The tax does not apply to payments received for the installation of any instrument, wire, pole, switchboard, apparatus, or equipment. However, the tax does apply to payments for the repair or replacement of those items incidental to ordinary maintenance.

Answering services.   The tax does not apply to amounts paid for a private line, an answering service, and a one-way paging or message service if they do not provide access to a local telephone system and the privilege of telephonic communication as part of the local telephone system.

Mobile radio telephone service.   The tax does not apply to payments for a two-way radio service that does not provide access to a local telephone system.

Coin-operated telephones.   The tax for local telephone service does not apply to payments made for services by inserting coins in public coin-operated telephones. But the tax applies if the coin-operated telephone service is furnished for a guaranteed amount. Figure the tax on the amount paid under the guarantee plus any fixed monthly or other periodic charge.

Telephone-operated security systems.   The tax does not apply to amounts paid for telephones used only to originate calls to a limited number of telephone stations for security entry into a building. In addition, the tax does not apply to any amounts paid for rented communication equipment used in the security system.

News services.   The tax on teletypewriter exchange service does not apply to charges for the following news services.
  • Services dealing exclusively with the collection or dissemination of news for or through the public press or radio or television broadcasting.

  • Services used exclusively in the collection or dissemination of news by a news ticker service furnishing a general news service similar to that of the public press.

This exemption applies to payments received for messages from one member of the news media to another member (or to or from their bona fide correspondents). For the exemption to apply, the charge for these services must be billed in writing to the person paying for the service and that person must certify in writing that the services are used for an exempt purpose.

Services not exempted.   The tax applies to amounts paid by members of the news media for local telephone service.

International organizations and the American Red Cross.   The tax does not apply to communication services furnished to an international organization or to the American National Red Cross.

Nonprofit hospitals.   The tax does not apply to telephone services furnished to income tax-exempt nonprofit hospitals for their use. Also, the tax does not apply to amounts paid by these hospitals to provide local telephone service in the homes of their personnel who must be reached during their off-duty hours.

Nonprofit educational organizations.   The tax does not apply to payments received for services and facilities furnished to a nonprofit educational organization for its use. A nonprofit educational organization is one that satisfies all the following requirements.
  • It normally maintains a regular faculty and curriculum.

  • It normally has a regularly enrolled body of pupils or students in attendance at the place where its educational activities are regularly carried on.

  • It is exempt from income tax under section 501(a).

This includes a school operated by an organization exempt under section 501(c)(3) if the school meets the above qualifications.

Qualified blood collector organizations.   The tax does not apply to telephone services furnished to qualified blood collector organizations for their use. A qualified blood collector organization is one that is:
  • Described in section 501(c)(3) and exempt from tax under section 501(a),

  • Primarily engaged in the activity of collecting human blood,

  • Registered with the IRS, and

  • Registered by the Food and Drug Administration to collect blood.

Federal, state, and local government.   The tax does not apply to communication services provided to the government of the United States, the government of any state or its political subdivisions, the District of Columbia, or the United Nations. Treat an Indian tribal government as a state for the exemption from the communications tax only if the services involve the exercise of an essential tribal government function.

Exemption certificate.   Any form of exemption certificate will be acceptable if it includes all the information required by the Internal Revenue Code and Regulations. See Regulations section 49.4253-11. File the certificate with the provider of the communication services. An exemption certificate is not required for nontaxable services.

  The following users that are exempt from the communications tax do not have to file an annual exemption certificate after they have filed the initial certificate to claim an exemption from the communications tax.
  • The American National Red Cross and other international organizations.

  • Nonprofit hospitals.

  • Nonprofit educational organizations.

  • Qualified blood collector organizations.

  • State and local governments.

  The federal government does not have to file any exemption certificate.

  All other organizations must furnish exemption certificates when required.

Credits or Refunds

If tax is collected and paid over for nontaxable services, or for certain services or users exempt from the communications tax, the collector or taxpayer may claim a credit or refund if it has repaid the tax to the person from whom the tax was collected or obtained the consent of that person to the allowance of the credit or refund. Alternatively, the person who paid the tax may claim a refund. For more information on how to file for credits or refunds, see the Instructions for Form 720 or Form 8849.

Collectors.   The collector may request a credit or refund if it has repaid the tax to the person from whom the tax was collected, or obtained the consent of that person to the allowance of the credit or refund. These requirements also apply to nontaxable service refunds.

Collectors using the regular method for deposits.   Collectors using the regular method for deposits must use Form 720X to request a credit or refund if the collector has repaid the tax to the person from whom the tax was collected, or obtained the consent of that person to the allowance of the credit or refund.

Collectors using the alternative method for deposits.   Collectors using the alternative method for deposits must adjust their separate accounts for the credit or refund if it has repaid the tax to the person from whom the tax was collected, or obtained the consent of that person to the allowance of the credit or refund. For more information, see the Instructions for Form 720.

Air Transportation Taxes

Taxes are imposed on amounts paid for:

  • Transportation of persons by air,

  • Use of international air travel facilities, and

  • Transportation of property by air.

Transportation of Persons by Air

The tax on transportation of persons by air is made up of the:

  • Percentage tax, and

  • Domestic-segment tax.

Percentage tax.   A tax of 7.5% applies to amounts paid for taxable transportation of persons by air. Amounts paid for transportation include charges for layover or waiting time and movement of aircraft in deadhead service.

Mileage awards.   The percentage tax may apply to an amount paid (in cash or in kind) to an air carrier (or any related person) for the right to provide mileage awards for, or other reductions in the cost of, any transportation of persons by air. For example, this applies to mileage awards purchased by credit card companies, telephone companies, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses.

  Generally, the percentage tax does not apply to amounts paid for mileage awards where the mileage awards cannot, under any circumstances, be redeemed for air transportation that is subject to the tax. Until regulations are issued, the following rules apply to mileage awards.
  • Amounts paid for mileage awards that cannot be redeemed for taxable transportation beginning and ending in the United States are not subject to the tax. For this rule, mileage awards issued by a foreign air carrier are considered to be usable only on that foreign air carrier and thus not redeemable for taxable transportation beginning and ending in the United States. Therefore, amounts paid to a foreign air carrier for mileage awards are not subject to the tax.

  • Amounts paid by an air carrier to a domestic air carrier for mileage awards that can be redeemed for taxable transportation are not subject to the tax to the extent those miles will be awarded in connection with the purchase of taxable transportation.

  • Amounts paid by an air carrier to a domestic air carrier for mileage awards that can be redeemed for taxable transportation are subject to the tax to the extent those miles will not be awarded in connection with the purchase of taxable transportation.

Domestic-segment tax.   The domestic-segment tax is a flat dollar amount for each segment of taxable transportation for which an amount is paid. However, see Rural airports, later. A segment is a single takeoff and a single landing. The amount of the domestic-segment tax is in the Instructions for Form 720.

Charter flights.    If an aircraft is chartered, the domestic-segment tax for each segment of taxable transportation is figured by multiplying the tax by the number of passengers transported on the aircraft.

Rural airports.   The domestic-segment tax does not apply to a segment to or from a rural airport. An airport is a rural airport for a calendar year if fewer than 100,000 commercial passengers departed from the airport by air during the second preceding calendar year (the 100,000 passenger rule), and one of the following is true:
  1. The airport is not located within 75 miles of another airport from which 100,000 or more commercial passengers departed during the second preceding calendar year,

  2. The airport was receiving essential air service subsidies as of August 5, 1997, or

  3. The airport is not connected by paved roads to another airport.

  To apply the 100,000 passenger rule to any airport described in (3) above, only count commercial passengers departing from the airport by air on flight segments of at least 100 miles.

  An updated list of rural airports can be found on the Department of Transportation website at www.dot.gov and enter the phrase “Essential Air Service” in the search box.

Taxable transportation.   Taxable transportation is transportation by air that meets either of the following tests.
  • It begins and ends either in the United States or at any place in Canada or Mexico not more than 225 miles from the nearest point on the continental United States boundary (this is the 225-mile zone).

  • It is directly or indirectly from one port or station in the United States to another port or station in the United States, but only if it is not a part of uninterrupted international air transportation, discussed later.

Round trip.   A round trip is considered two separate trips. The first trip is from the point of departure to the destination. The second trip is the return trip from that destination.

Uninterrupted international air transportation.   This means transportation entirely by air that does not begin and end in the United States or in the 225-mile zone if there is not more than a 12-hour scheduled interval between arrival and departure at any station in the United States. For a special rule that applies to military personnel, see Exemptions, later.

Transportation between the continental U.S. and Alaska or Hawaii.   This transportation is partially exempt from the tax on transportation of persons by air. The tax does not apply to the part of the trip between the point at which the route of transportation leaves or enters the continental United States (or a port or station in the 225-mile zone) and the point at which it enters or leaves Hawaii or Alaska. Leaving or entering occurs when the route of the transportation passes over either the United States border or a point 3 nautical miles (3.45 statute miles) from low tide on the coast line, or when it leaves a port or station in the 225-mile zone. Therefore, this transportation is subject to the percentage tax on the part of the trip in U.S. airspace, the domestic-segment tax for each domestic segment, and the tax on the use of international air travel facilities, discussed later.

Transportation within Alaska or Hawaii.   The tax on transportation of persons by air applies to the entire fare paid in the case of flights between any of the Hawaiian Islands, and between any ports or stations in the Aleutian Islands or other ports or stations elsewhere in Alaska. The tax applies even though parts of the flights may be over international waters or over Canada, if no point on the direct line of transportation between the ports or stations is more than 225 miles from the United States (Hawaii or Alaska).

Package tours.   The air transportation taxes apply to “complimentary” air transportation furnished solely to participants in package holiday tours. The amount paid for these package tours includes a charge for air transportation even though it may be advertised as “free.” This rule also applies to the tax on the use of international air travel facilities, discussed later.

Liability for tax.   The person paying for taxable transportation is liable for the tax and, ordinarily, the person receiving the payment collects the tax, files the returns, and pays the tax over to the government. However, if payment is made outside the United States for a prepaid order, exchange order, or similar order, the person furnishing the initial transportation provided for under that order must collect the tax.

   A travel agency that is an independent broker and sells tours on aircraft that it charters must collect the transportation tax, file the returns, and pay the tax over to the government. However, a travel agency that sells tours as the agent of an airline must collect the tax and remit it to the airline for the filing of returns and for the payment of the tax over to the government. An independent third party that is not under the airline's supervision or control, but is acting on behalf of, and receiving compensation from, a passenger, is not required to collect the tax and pay it to the government. For more information on resellers of air transportation, see Revenue Ruling 2006-52. You can find Revenue Ruling 2006-52 on page 761 of I.R.B. 2006-43 at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-irbs/irb06-43.pdf.

  The fact that the aircraft does not use public or commercial airports in taking off and landing has no effect on the tax. But see Certain helicopter uses, later.

  For taxable transportation that begins and ends in the United States, the tax applies regardless of whether the payment is made in or outside the United States.

  If the tax is not paid when payment for the transportation is made, the air carrier providing the initial segment of the transportation that begins or ends in the United States becomes liable for the tax.

Exemptions.   The tax on transportation of persons by air does not apply in the following situations. See also Special Rules on Transportation Taxes, later.

Military personnel on international trips.   When traveling in uniform at their own expense, United States military personnel on authorized leave are deemed to be traveling in uninterrupted international air transportation (defined earlier) even if the scheduled interval between arrival and departure at any station in the United States is actually more than 12 hours. However, such personnel must buy their tickets within 12 hours after landing at the first domestic airport and accept the first available accommodation of the type called for by their tickets. The trip must begin or end outside the United States and the 225-mile zone.

Certain helicopter uses.   The tax does not apply to air transportation by helicopter if the helicopter is used for any of the following purposes.
  1. Transporting individuals, equipment, or supplies in the exploration for, or the development or removal of, hard minerals, oil, or gas.

  2. Planting, cultivating, cutting, transporting, or caring for trees (including logging operations).

  3. Providing emergency medical transportation.

  However, during a use described in items (1) or (2), the tax applies if the helicopter takes off from, or lands at, a facility eligible for assistance under the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, or otherwise uses services provided under section 44509 or 44913(b) or subchapter I of chapter 471 of title 49, United States Code. For item (1), treat each flight segment as a separate flight.

Fixed-wing aircraft uses.   The tax does not apply to air transportation by fixed-wing aircraft if the fixed-wing aircraft is used for any of the following purposes.
  1. Planting, cultivating, cutting, transporting, or caring for trees (including logging operations).

  2. Providing emergency medical transportation. The aircraft must be equipped for and exclusively dedicated on that flight to acute care emergency medical services.

  However, during a use described in item (1), the tax applies if the fixed-wing aircraft takes off from, or lands at, a facility eligible for assistance under the Airport and Airway Development Act of 1970, or otherwise uses services provided under section 44509 or 44913(b) or subchapter I of chapter 471 of title 49, United States Code.

Skydiving.   The tax does not apply to any air transportation exclusively for the purpose of skydiving.

Seaplanes.   The tax does not apply to any air transportation by seaplane for any segment consisting of a takeoff from, and a landing on, water if the places where the takeoff and landing occur are not receiving financial assistance from the Airport and Airways Trust Fund.

Bonus tickets.   The tax does not apply to free bonus tickets issued by an airline company to its customers who have satisfied all requirements to qualify for the bonus tickets. However, the tax applies to amounts paid by customers for advance bonus tickets when customers have traveled insufficient mileage to fully qualify for the free advance bonus tickets.

International Air Travel Facilities

A tax per person is imposed (whether in or outside the United States) for international flights that begin or end in the United States. However, for a domestic segment that begins or ends in Alaska or Hawaii, a reduced tax per person applies only to departures. This tax does not apply if all the transportation is subject to the percentage tax, discussed earlier. It also doesn't apply if the surtax on fuel used in a fractional ownership program aircraft (discussed earlier) is imposed. See the Instructions for Form 720 for the tax rates.

Transportation of Property by Air

A tax of 6.25% is imposed on amounts paid (whether in or outside the United States) for transportation of property by air. The fact that the aircraft may not use public or commercial airports in taking off and landing has no effect on the tax. The tax applies only to amounts paid to a person engaged in the business of transporting property by air for hire.

The tax applies only to transportation (including layover time and movement of aircraft in deadhead service) that begins and ends in the United States. Thus, the tax does not apply to transportation of property by air that begins or ends outside the United States.

Exemptions.   The tax on transportation of property by air does not apply in the following situations. See also Special Rules on Transportation Taxes, later.

Cropdusting and firefighting service.   The tax does not apply to amounts paid for cropdusting or aerial firefighting service.

Exportation.    The tax does not apply to payments for transportation of property by air in the course of exportation (including to United States possessions) by continuous movement, as evidenced by the execution of Form 1363, Export Exemption Certificate. See Form 1363 for more information.

Certain helicopter and fixed-wing air ambulance uses.   The tax does not apply to amounts paid for the use of helicopters in construction to set heating and air conditioning units on roofs of buildings, to dismantle tower cranes, and to aid in construction of power lines and ski lifts.

  The tax also does not apply to air transportation by helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft for the purpose of providing emergency medical services. The fixed-wing aircraft must be equipped for and exclusively dedicated on that flight to acute care emergency medical services.

Skydiving.   The tax does not apply to any air transportation exclusively for the purpose of skydiving.

Excess baggage.    The tax does not apply to excess baggage accompanying a passenger on an aircraft operated on an established line.

Surtax on fuel used in a fractional ownership program aircraft.   The tax does not apply if the surtax on fuel used in a fractional ownership program aircraft (discussed earlier) is imposed.

Alaska and Hawaii.   For transportation of property to and from Alaska and Hawaii, the tax in general does not apply to the portion of the transportation that is entirely outside the continental United States (or the 225-mile zone if the aircraft departs from or arrives at an airport in the 225-mile zone). But the tax applies to flights between ports or stations in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, as well as between ports or stations in Hawaii. The tax applies even though parts of the flights may be over international waters or over Canada, if no point on a line drawn from where the route of transportation leaves the United States (Alaska) to where it reenters the United States (Alaska) is more than 225 miles from the United States.

Liability for tax.   The person paying for taxable transportation is liable for the tax and, ordinarily, the person engaged in the business of transporting property by air for hire receives the payment, collects the tax, files the returns, and pays the tax over to the government.

  If tax is not paid when a payment is made outside the United States, the person furnishing the last segment of taxable transportation collects the tax from the person to whom the property is delivered in the United States.

Special Rules on Transportation Taxes

In certain circumstances, special rules apply to the taxes on transportation of persons and property by air.

Aircraft used by affiliated corporations.   The taxes do not apply to payments received by one member of an affiliated group of corporations from another member for services furnished in connection with the use of an aircraft. However, the aircraft must be owned or leased by a member of the affiliated group and cannot be available for hire by a nonmember of the affiliated group. Determine whether an aircraft is available for hire by a nonmember of an affiliated group on a flight-by-flight basis.

  For this rule, an affiliated group of corporations is any group of corporations connected with a common parent corporation through 80% or more of stock ownership.

Small aircraft.   The taxes do not apply to transportation furnished by an aircraft having a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 6,000 pounds or less. However, the taxes do apply if the aircraft is operated on an established line. “Operated on an established line” means the aircraft operates with some degree of regularity between definite points. However, it does not include any time an aircraft is being operated on a flight that is solely for sightseeing.

  Consider an aircraft to be operated on an established line if it is operated on a charter basis between two cities also served by that carrier on a regularly scheduled basis.

  Also, the taxes apply if the aircraft is jet-powered, regardless of its maximum certificated takeoff weight or whether or not it is operated on an established line.

Mixed load of persons and property.   If a single amount is paid for air transportation of persons and property, the payment must be allocated between the amount subject to the tax on transportation of persons and the amount subject to the tax on transportation of property. The allocation must be reasonable and supported by adequate records.

Credits or refunds.   If tax is collected and paid over for air transportation that is not taxable air transportation, the collector may claim a credit or refund if it has repaid the tax to the person from whom the tax was collected or obtained the consent of that person to the allowance of the credit or refund. Alternatively, the person who paid the tax may claim a refund. For information on how to file for credits or refunds, see the Instructions for Form 720 or Form 8849.


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