IRS Gives Truckers a Tax Break in Response to the Colonial Pipeline Shutdown

The tax penalty for using dyed diesel fuel for highway use is temporarily suspended.

picture of trucks on a highway
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In response to the supply chain disruptions created by the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, the IRS is temporarily suspending the penalty for selling or using dyed diesel fuel for highway use in Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Normally, dyed diesel fuel is not subject to the 24.4¢ per gallon tax that is normally applied to diesel fuel for highway use because it's only sold for tax-exempt uses, such as for farming, home heating, and local government purposes. (The fuel is dyed – often red – to distinguish it from taxable fuel.)

The penalty is typically imposed if:

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  • Any dyed fuel is sold or held for sale for a use the person knows or has reason to know isn't a nontaxable use of the fuel;
  • Any dyed fuel is held for use or used for a use other than a nontaxable use and the person knew, or had reason to know, that the fuel was dyed;
  • The strength or composition of any dye in dyed fuel is willfully altered, or there is an attempt to alter it; or
  • Altered fuel is knowingly sold or held for sale for any use that isn't a nontaxable use of the fuel.

The penalty is $1,000 or $10 per gallon of the dyed diesel fuel involved, whichever is higher. For multiple violations, the $1,000 portion of the penalty increases depending on the number of violations.

The penalty relief is retroactive to May 7, 2021, and will remain in effect through May 21, 2021. It's available to any person that sells or uses dyed diesel fuel for highway use. In the case of the operator of a vehicle in which the dyed diesel fuel is used, the penalty relief is available only if the operator or the person selling the fuel pays the 24.4 cents per gallon tax that is normally applied to diesel fuel for highway use. The IRS also won't impose penalties for the failure to make semimonthly deposits of this tax.

Rocky Mengle

Rocky Mengle was a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger from October 2018 to January 2023 with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, Rocky worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky holds a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.