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ExSTARS User Guide for Avalara Returns Excise

This article applies to:Excise

 

This site is only for Avalara customers licensed for Returns Excise and AvaTax Excise. 
Documentation of operation, usage and release dates is confidential and proprietary information of Avalara.
Content last updated: 2021-01-22
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Use this guide to complete Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 720-TO Terminal Operator Report and Form 720-CS Carrier Summary Report, known as ExSTARS reports. To learn more about the reporting requirements or for questions about your filing status, go to the IRS site, Excise Summary Terminal Activity Reporting (ExSTARS)

Click the table of contents to the right to see the topics covered in this guide.

Initial setup

This is only required when you subscribe to a new return (720-TO or 720-CS), or acquire/sell an IRS reportable terminal.

You will need:

  • Your 637 license number sent by the IRS in your Letter of Acceptance (LOA).
  • Refer to the IRS Publication 3536, Motor Fuel Excise Tax EDI Guide if you don't know your 637 license number.
  • Create one Account record in Avalara Returns Excise if you are a carrier and one for each terminal that you operate.

Company Accounts

  1. Click Maintenance > Companies and then the Accounts tab.
  2. To add a new carrier or terminal operator taxpayer type account, click the Add New Record link.
    To edit an account, simply click anywhere on that account's row in the grid.
  3. Fill in the required information, marked with a red asterisk (*).
    • Fields that are grayed out should be skipped.
    • If a Jurisdiction or Taxpayer type is not available, contact your Avalara Customer Account Manager to subscribe to additional returns.
    • In the Effective Date field, type the in the day the license was first effective (the earliest day you will file this return)
      The
      Calendar icon can be used to select the date.
  4. For terminal reports, repeat the steps above for each of your terminals.

Terminal Operator Setup

Only use this section if you have recently acquired a terminal and are preparing your first tax filing for it.

  1. Click Maintenance > Locations.
  2. Click Add new Record.
  3. Select the Region/State of the terminal.
  4. Select the Terminal Control Number (TCN) from the drop-down. When the Terminal Code is selected, the address auto fills from the Terminals table.
    SnagIt0103.png
    • If your terminal is not in the drop-down list, you can add it. Avalara updates terminals in each monthly platform release but new terminals may need to be added manually:
      • Click Maintenance > Terminals.
      • Click Add new Record, enter the terminal information and click Insert.
      • You can now return to Maintenance > Locations, above
      • Click here for documentation on the Locations table.
        SnagIt0104.png

Adding Terminal Operator Inventories

  1. Add Ending Inventories in Tax Filing > Schedule Transactions.
  2. Select the correct schedule for the inventory type:
    • INT01: Actual Physical Ending Inventory 
      • Ending Inventory is required for each terminal reported.
    • INT02: Ownership Change – Terminal Acquired
      • Ending inventory on the day a terminal is bought.
    • INT03: Ownership Change – Terminal Sold
      • Ending inventory on the day a terminal is sold.

SnagIt0107.png

Only report a change in ending inventory when there is fuel movement reported on a transaction schedule.  If your terminal had no activity but the gallons changed due to temperature, etc., report the ending inventory the same as the beginning inventory for the period.  Adjust the gallons on the next return period that contains transactions.

Enter transactions and generate the report

Follow your normal procedures to enter your records and generate the tax return. See the Tax Filing menu for details.

Protect your return and eFile from accidental changes

Important: Immediately after you create the eFile, mark it as Submitted and mark the Return as Filed. See Filing Period Completion for details.

eFile (EDI) creation

  1. Click Tax Filing > Tax Sessions and make sure that your USA-US-CAR (Carrier) and all USA-US-TOR (Terminal Operator) returns have:
    • Critical Errors = 0
    • Return Generation Needed = No
    • Return Status = Passed or Warning
  2. Click eFiling > eFile Creation > Add New Record.
  3. Verify the session and select the file(s) to include on the Tax Sessions tab.
    • ​Only sessions that have a successful return generation are available to select.
  4. Select Test or Production.
  5. Click the Settings tab and select the Contact.
    • The selections are populated from Maintenance > Taxpayer Contacts.
  6. Control Seed Number - do not change this unless specifically instructed by Avalara Support.
    • Is the eFile's a unique 4-digit internal identification number.
    • Is automatically generated by the software.
  7. The FJ Control Number - do not change this unless specifically instructed by Avalara Support.
    • Is used to synchronize your eFiles with the IRS 997 and 151 acknowledgement files.
    • It also synchronizes amendment eFiles.
    • Is automatically generated by the software.
  8. Type in the ISA and GS information (supplied by the IRS).

  9. If you're filing the 720-TO Terminal Operator report for the first time, click the Inventory tab and and change Include Beginning Inventory to Yes.

  10. Generate the EDI and submit it to the IRS following their instructions.

Protect your return and eFile from accidental changes

Important: Immediately after you create the eFile:

  1.  The Mark as Submitted offers a check box to File Tax Session on Submission. Check this box after you create your eFile to file all tax sessions that have been included in the eFile.
  2. You can also click Tax Filing > Tax Sessions from the main menu and mark each session individually
  3. Click on each USA-US-CAR (Carrier) and USA-US-TOR (Terminal Operator) tax session
    • Click on File Tax Return
    • Click on Mark as Filed
      This will also protect the eFile by marking it as Submitted and make the eFile ready for the 151 acknowledgment process.
      Note: The eFile will now be found in eFiling > Submissions.
  4. When the 151 acknowledgment file is available, download to the same place you saved the eFile (EDI) and continue with Process the 151 Acknowledgment File.

Once your eFile has been submitted to the IRS, do not make any changes to schedules or regenerate the EDI.  This will cause your Acknowledgment to fail.  See Amending an EDI, below to correct errors.

Process the 151 acknowledgment file

  1. Download the 997 EDI and 151 EDI files from the ExSTARS website.
    This example 151 file is for the reporting period 2015-11 and ends with edi
    000000123456789-000000123456789-0123456789-2015-11-P-151-20151231172749.edi
  2. Click eFiling > eFile Submissions.
  3. Click on the eFile that matches the reporting period (e.g. 2015-11).
  4. Click the TS 151 tab, then click Upload New TS151 Acknowledgment.
  5. Click Select and browse to where the 151 acknowledgment file is saved, then click the Upload button.

    Note: the IRS provides two "151" files - .txt and .edi - only upload the .edi file.
  6. There will be a green dot by the File: line when a correctly named acknowledgment is selected.
    • This does not confirm that the correct file is associated with this EDI
  7. Click Upload to process the file.
    • A message on the box indicates if the upload was successful.
    • Close the upload window.
  8. When processing is complete, check the status

Status Passed and 0 must fix errors

If you see "Status: Passed" and "0 must fix messages" - great! You're finished.
TS151-passed-0-must-fix.png

Status Passed and 1 (or more) must fix errors

If you see "Status: Passed" and "1 must fix messages" or more, continue with Amending an EDI

Status Failed

If you see "Status: Failed", you have 2 choices:

Create a Support Case

 Create a support case and copy/paste the items highlighted in yellow into the description.
151-error-screenshot.png

If you are self-hosted, attach 

  • a copy of the EDI file that you sent to ExSTARS
  • copies of the 997 and 151 EDI files you downloaded from ExSTARS
  • The Excel file that is created when you click the History Log tab, and click the Export button at the bottom of the grid.

Here's an example Support Case for this situation:
151-error-support-case.png

Regenerate the eFile and correct the REF~FJ

Amending an EDI

After processing the 151 Acknowledgment file, you may need to file an Amendment. Read about each method below and choose the appropriate one. If you're not sure which to choose, select the first option:

  • Replacement – Information was in error or missing from a record.
  • Correction – Information was in error or missing from a record.
  • Supplemental – Loads omitted from the original EDI.

 

  1. Select the type of file to create as a correction in the lower left-hand corner of the screen and click Execute.
    • Create replacement in original session, flagging records in error.
    • Create correction amendment with must fix errors only.
    • Create correction amendment with both must fix and warning errors (very rare).

Replacement Filing

You must have completed Process the 151 Acknowledgment file before creating an amended filing.

These instructions assume that you need to amend your Original (Sequence 0) tax session.

A Replacement will effectively replace the Original EDI file that was submitted.
  1. Go to Tax Filing > Tax Sessions and find the Original session, Sequence 0 that needs to be amended.
  2. Click on the tax session and choose Unfile Tax Return from the popup menu.
    • If you manually created an amended tax sessions (Sequence 1 or higher) before coming here, you will need to delete those tax sessions before you can unfile Sequence 0. 
    • Important! If your previous eFile contained multiple tax sessions (e.g. Terminal Operator and Carrier returns or multiple Terminals), all of them must be unfiled the replacement file so that they will be included in the replacement eFile. If you don't do this, your replacement will only include the unfiled tax session.
  3. Go to eFiling > eFile Submissions and click on the tax session you need to amend.
  4. Select the TS 151 tab
  5. In the lower left-hand corner of the screen select Create replacement in original session, flagging records in error and click Execute.
    • Create replacement in original session, flagging records in error.
    • Create correction amendment with must fix errors only.
    • Create correction amendment with both must fix and warning errors (very rare).
  6. Identify the records in error by using the Correction Type field, which will contain
    99999-Must Fix Errors.
    SnagIt0112.png
  7. Modify the records that are in error.
    • As you modify the records in error, set the Correction Type to be blank.
  8. Generate the tax return(s).
  9. Go to eFile Creation.
  10. For eFiling Option, select Original – Replacement.
    • For a Replacement, as with an Original, only the unfiled tax sessions are available for selection to include in the eFile.  
      Important! If your original eFile contained tax sessions for multiple terminals, all of them must be unfiled so that they will be included in the amended eFile. If you don't do this, your replacement will only include the unfiled tax session.

Correction Filing

You must have completed Process the 151 Acknowledgment file before creating an amended filing. These instructions assume that you need to amend your Original (Sequence 0) tax session.

A Corrected file changes only the records in error.

  1. Go to Tax Filing > Tax Sessions and find the Original session, Sequence 0 that needs to be amended.
  2. Go to eFiling > eFile Submissions and click on the new Sequence 1 tax session you need to amend and choose Query Wizard from the popup menu.
  3. Select the TS 151 tab
  4. Correction Type Is Not Null
  5. In the lower left-hand corner of the screen select Create correction amendment with must fix errors only and click Execute.
    ExSTARS-correction.png
  6. Go to Tax Filing > Tax Sessions, click the amended session, Sequence 1 that was created by the step above and choose Query Wizard.
  7. Filter the records using the Correction Type field, which will contain 99999-Must Fix Errors.
    SnagIt0112.png
  8. Make your corrections for each record the records that are in error.
    • As you modify the records in error, set the Correction Type to be blank.
  9. Generate the tax return(s).
  10. Go to eFile Creation.
  11. For eFiling Option, select Original – Replacement.
    • For a Replacement, as with an Original, only the unfiled tax sessions are available for selection to include in the eFile.  
      Important! If your original eFile contained tax sessions for multiple terminals, all of them must be unfiled so that they will be included in the amended eFile. If you don't do this, your replacement will only include the unfiled tax session.
    • Select either Create correction amendment with must fix errors only or Create correction amendment with both must fix and warning errors.
      • The IRS does not require warnings to be included on a corrected EDI.
    • Identify the records in error by using the Correction Type field, which will contain 99999-Must Fix Errors.
      SnagIt0112.png
  12. This step creates an amended tax session and populates it with the records identified on the 151 Acknowledgment.
    • The records are identified on the 151 Acknowledgment using the Sequence ID field.
    • The Sequence ID is assigned by the software when an Original EDI is run.
    • Do not manually change the Sequence ID in either the Original or Corrected session.
  13. Make the corrections to the records in the amended sequence.
    • From the Original Session (sequence 0) click on Reporting > Schedule Query Wizard.
    • Use the Schedule Query Wizard to copy the records into the amended sequence.
  14. Set the Correction Type on each record as appropriate.
    • 00001 - Record Corrected
    • 00003 - Delete Record, Submitted in Error
  15. Generate the tax return.
  16.  Create the efile, selecting Amendment - Corrected for the eFiling option.

Supplemental Filing

Note: Instead of creating a Supplemental Amendment, it is almost always easier to include these transactions in the next filing. IRS Publication 3536, Motor Fuel Excise Tax EDI Guide May 2019 (external site) allows for what are commonly called 'late loads': "Prior period transactions (with a document date within 12 months of the current reporting period) not previously reported may be included in a current report."

Just make sure your Taxpayer Preferences has Late Load Cut-off Months set to allow 12 months.

  1. Process the 151 Acknowledgment.
  2. Manually create an amended sequence, and select the Corrected - Supplemental option.
  3. Add the supplemental records to the amended sequence:
    • Supplemental records do not use a Correction Type.
    • The Sequence ID is added when the eFile is created.

Create a Manual Amendment

Normally you would allow the Acknowledgment process to create an amended sequence. There may be instances where you need to create an amended sequence manually.

  1. Process the 151 Acknowledgment.
  2. Delete the automatically created sequence, if there is one.
  3. Click Create Amendment.
    SnagIt0114.png
  4. Select Correction or Supplemental from the drop-down menu.
  5. Click Create Amendment.
    • For a Correction:
      • From the Original Session (sequence 0) click on Reporting > Schedule Query Wizard
      • Use the Schedule Query Wizard to copy the records into the amended sequence
    • For a Supplemental:
      • Manually add or import the records to be reported
  6. Generate the Return and create the eFile.
    • Refer to the IRS Guidelines for file naming standards on correction files.

Terminal Ownership Status Change

  1. Edit the Location record for a terminal acquisition, or set the Obsolete date for a terminal sale.
  2. Use the appropriate inventory record INT02 or INT03 to type your gallons acquired or sold.
  3. For an acquisition, remember to enter your Beginning Inventory in the previous filing period’s Ending Inventory to include it in the EDI file.

ExSTARS Filing Notes

The following are notes gathered from IRS Publication 3536, Motor Fuel Excise Tax EDI Guide (external site) or from communication with the ExSTARS Help Desk during Avalara software certification testing.  

Always confirm the following information with the independently as Avalara cannot speak for the ExSTARS Help Desk.

  • FEINs that contain all 9s will not be accepted by the IRS. Please review your Buyers, Sellers, Consignors, and Position Holders and change any FEINs that are all 9s.
  • Beginning Inventory must be included on your first certification filing, first production filing and any time a new product is added to a terminal.
  • Supplemental and Corrected transactions cannot be sent in the same file. 
  • Prior period transactions (with a document date within 12 months of the current reporting period) not previously reported may be included in a current report. These prior period transactions are included in the computation of gain or loss for the current period.
  • Replacement files erase the original. If the replacement file has severe errors that cause the file to be rejected, it is as if the original were never filed.
  • Inventories cannot be negative.
  • When your 151 acknowledgment has a significant number of “must fix” errors, review Replacement vs. Correction options.   

Examples of Amendments Needed 

The following are examples to help you choose your response to the Acknowledgment.  

All cases are subject to the specifications and/or discretion of the IRS Helpdesk.

File Rejected:

  • Correct and re-submit the original  
  • The BTI13 segment in the EDI will be 00 (Original).

"Must Fix" errors:

  • Correct the original session data 
    • The BTI14 segment in the EDI will be 6R (Replacement).
  • Copy the errors into an amended sequence and make the corrections 
    • The BTI14 segment in the EDI will be CO (Corrected).

Transactions omitted or late loads:

  • File transactions in an amended sequence 
    • The BTI14 segment in the EDI will be 6S (Supplemental).
  • Include transactions in the next Original EDI within the time limit specified by the IRS

For a detailed explanation of the segment codes, refer to the IRS Publication 3536, Motor Fuel Excise Tax EDI Guide (external site).

 

 

 

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