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Avalara Help Center

Introduction to Fuel Tax Filing

This article applies to:Excise


This document applies to all license types.  Content last updated 11/30/2015.
Help Center documentation is confidential and proprietary to Avalara clients.

We answer some important "When, how, why and where" questions for you. You might want to keep this document handy while you are filing.  

The first filing period is the hardest, since it involves some initial setup, but after that you will be a tax filing expert in no time. 

In some instances you will be referred to your jurisdiction contact. Depending on where you file, this might be information posted on their website, or it may require an email or phone call. Often this is noted on the tax return form, or when you got your tax license number. The following FAQ can help you determine where to address your question.

Where can I go if I am stuck on a problem? 

Your fastest resource is the documentation page. You can also contact the Avalara Excise support team.  Support cases are triaged by critical issue and prioritized accordingly, so keep in mind it may take a few business days to receive a response for non-critical questions.   For instance, a problem creating a Session to file your return would have a higher priority and receive a faster response than a question on how to create a widget.

What is a jurisdiction?

An area subject to its own distinct tax regulations. In most cases it is a state, but it can also be a city, county, municipality, or some other tax authority.

What if the jurisdiction makes changes to returns or tax rates?

We have a team of tax professional who keep abreast of tax laws, and we will make  changes and apply them to Avalara Excise Returns in a regular release cycle to coincide with the tax jurisdiction mandates.  You only need to make changes on your own files and accounting system and we take care of the tax return and eFile generation changes.

What is a taxpayer type?

Your taxpayer description. The taxpayer types vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, if you are a terminal operator, your taxpayer type is Terminal Operator. If you are a trucking business, it might be Carrier or Transporter.

What is a filing period?

The dates that are included in a single tax filing, usually one month. For example, the period begin date is 03/01/2015 and period end date is 03/31/2015. 

What is a tax session?

Returns Excise needs a unique tax session created for each filing period, usually one month.  It is based on:

  • Country
  • Jurisdiction
  • Taxpayer type
  • Start  and end date
  • Sequence (original or amended filing)
  • Terminal code (where applicable)

For example: TN Exporter with start Date 3/1/2015, and end Date 3/31/2015. This means that all of the bill of lading dates fall on or between March 1 to March 31 in 2015. Some jurisdictions may also have additional quarterly, yearly or bi-monthly returns, and each of these is also its own tax session.  

How is the due date different from the filing period dates?

The due date is the deadline for filing your fuel taxes. For example, your taxes for the filing period beginning on March 1 and ending on March 31 would not be due until sometime in late April. This allows businesses a few weeks to prepare their tax returns. Not all states/tax jurisdictions file on the same date. There is a column that shows you the due date for each different tax session, but it is a good practice to also confirm it with the jurisdiction when the due date falls on a weekend or a holiday.

What is a late load?

A late load is a transaction which has a bill of lading date past the end date of a filing period. For example, a load dated March 31 included in the file beginning April 1 and ending April 30. These are also referred to as out-of-period transactions, and not every jurisdiction allows them. Check with your jurisdiction contact for confirmation before you file late loads.

What if I need to make changes to a submitted tax filing?

You can submit an amendment or supplement to your tax filing with Avalara Returns Excise. Each jurisdiction has its own rules for amending or supplementing files, and our software complies with these requirements.

How many records can I import?

One thousand records at a time for Returns Excise Pro. If you have more records than that, they must be imported in subsequent files to the same tax session.   Returns Excise Enterprise does not have a limit on the number of records, but the file must not exceed 157 mb.

What is a tax return?

The tax return is the form supplied to us by the jurisdiction that details your tax refund or payment. The tax return generated in Avalara Returns Excise is an exact copy of the form that you would get from the jurisdiction. This is also sometimes referred to as a paper return. Each tax return is associated with a taxpayer type.

What is a schedule?

The individual name of a record that goes onto a tax return. For example, Tennessee Transporter: Schedule 2A - Gallons Loaded at an Out-Of-State-Terminal. The TN transporter taxpayer type has 3 different schedules. Tax records entered onto a schedule are called schedule transactions. A listing of schedule transactions is a schedule detail.

What is an eFile?

eFile stands for electronic file. Jurisdictions that require eFiling have their own set of rules for formatting. Commonly used eFiles are EDI, XML, Excel files and text files. Avalara Returns Excise is designed to create the correct format for you automatically. Your jurisdiction contact can tell you the required format type. 

Where do I send my tax return or eFile?

Jurisdictions have different requirements when and where you submit your tax return. One jurisdiction may ask you to email an attachment, and another to log into their website and upload it. Avalara Returns Excise gives you the correct format, and your jurisdiction contact can tell you how to submit it.

What is a business entity?

Another company with whom you do business: Buyer, Seller, Consignor, or Position Holder. Not all jurisdictions will ask you for all 4 of these items on your records. If you fail to enter one of these fields on your import data and it is required by the jurisdiction, the software gives you an error message.

What  is the difference between company and business entity?

Company is your own business and its unique identification number. The ID number may be an FEIN assigned to you, or a Social Security number. Your tax contacts can help you determine which one you will use. Business Entity is another company who has a business relationship with you. 

Can I file taxes on behalf of more than one company?

Only if you have an Avalara Enterprise license can you add subcompanies filing under a single master company. A single Pro Excise Returns license allows only one company, with no subcompanies.

What is my Avalara company license and how do I renew it?

Your license dictates what options you see in the software, beginning on the date the contract was signed. The contract you signed with Avalara to purchase specific jurisdictions are applied to your license key, which is a unique text file created for your account. When your yearly invoice from Avalara is paid, your license is automatically renewed for another year. Questions about your license type (Enterprise or Pro) and/or invoicing should be directed to your sales representative.

What is SaaS?

SaaS (it's pronounced SASS) stands for Software as a Service.  SaaS is an application hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network.  Avalara Returns Excise is the name of the software you have purchased, and it is is made available to you over the internet using the web browser of your choice, for example Chrome, Internet Explorer or Firefox.

How is my Avalara license different from my jurisdiction license?

Your Avalara license is applied to your web account by Support after you purchase the Avalara software. The state or jurisdiction tax license is issued to you from your tax authority's jurisdiction (state, county, etc.).

What is a location?

A place from which you receive fuel or deliver fuel. Locations have 2 types: Terminal or non-terminal. A terminal location is an IRS registered terminal designated with a specific code, and everywhere else is non-terminal. 

What is a dashboard widget?

Your dashboard is your personal shortcuts page on the Home tab. Widgets are pre-programmed shortcut icons that you can add to your dashboard for one-click operations.

What does the file extension mean on an import file?

Th extension is the 3 or 4 letters after the last dot in the file name. When you choose to save a document, the file type you save as is added to the file name. The file extension tells the document what program to launch to open it. For example, the file name TN Transporter.xlsx tells us it is a file named TN Transporter created using Excel version 2007 or later.  (A file created in an earlier version would have the extension of .xls).

How do I get a tax license number?

If the license is for your own business (company), your jurisdiction contact can help you.  If it is for a company with whom you do business (business entity), ask your contact at that business.

How do I pay my taxes?

How you remit your tax liability is determined by your  jurisdiction's tax rules. Some may require payment via bank transfer, and other may need a check mailed to them. Also be sure to confirm the timing of your payment with your jurisdiction contact – whether it is due on the filing due date, or within a specified amount of time after the filing due date.

What if I miss the deadline and submit my tax filing later?

Each jurisdiction handles late filing according to their own tax rules. Some jurisdictions may impose a penalty, so be sure to contact your tax contact at the jurisdiction before the filing deadline to confirm what to do if your file might be late.

What is an acknowledgment file?

An acknowledgment (ACK) file is a file from the jurisdiction telling you if your eFile passed, and whether it contains errors that must be corrected. Not all jurisdictions send a formal acknowledgment.

Do I contact the tax jurisdiction or Avalara Support?

Sometimes it is difficult to determine when to contact the tax jurisdiction versus Avalara Support. Below are some examples to help you.  Remember that jurisdiction websites often have frequently asked questions, and the answers to FAQs.

The first line of each set below is a question you should ask your Jurisdiction Contact, and the second line is a simliar one for Avalara Support.

  • Jurisdiction Contact: I can't find a license number.
  • Avalara Support: How do I change the license number on the tax return?
  • Jurisdiction Contact: What should I name the eFile?
  • Avalara Support: How do I change the name of my eFile I created to comply with naming standards?
  • Jurisdiction Contact: On what schedules should I enter my records?
  • Avalara Support: There is a schedule validation error I can't resolve.
  • Jurisdiction Contact: Where do I submit my tax return?
  • Avalara Support: How do I get a value on a particular line on my tax return?
  • Jurisdiction Contact: How do I pay my taxes?
  • Avalara Support: Tax amount on the return is wrong and I can't figure out why.
  • Jurisdiction Contact: What should I include in an amended file?
  • Avalara Support: How do I create a file that complies with the jurisdiction guidelines for amending?

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