Atlanta International Airport Loses Appeal Over Plane Fuel Tax

By George Khoury, Esq. on April 30, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Hartsfield-Jackson Airport has been, and probably still is, charging planes that refuel there local taxes on the aviation fuel. And while that's legal, according to the FAA's interpretation of the rules, the tax money collected from local aviation fuel tax can only be used for aviation related purposes.

After attempting to reach a resolution with the FAA, the county filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the interpretation of the rule. Unfortunately for the county, the appellate court explained that the case was filed too late after the interpretation of the rule was announced, as well as too soon as the FAA had not issued a final action as to the local taxes.

The Taxman Can Fly

Atlanta's international airport, however, located in Clayton County, charges an aviation fuel tax to generate revenue to support the county and its school. Notably, the local taxes have been on the books for over 20 years at this point. But, in 2014, the FAA issued a clarification to explain that the prohibition on aviation fuel taxes being used to fund anything non-aviation related applied to all levels of government.

Before the lawsuit was filed in 2017, the county attempted to work out a resolution with the FAA, before the FAA took action due to the violation of the aviation tax rule. The appellate court found that because the FAA had not issued a final determination, the court lacked jurisdiction to rule.

With any luck, the county will be able to go back to the drawing board with the FAA to resolve the matter short of final agency action, though that airship might be grounded by the FAA.

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