When some snowmobile enthusiasts pay to fill up their tanks before hitting the trails, they’re bringing in money for their sled clubs.
The state Department of Taxation and Finance offers an 8 cent-per-gallon refund of taxes on motor fuel purchased for off-road vehicles.
The return may not add up to much for an individual — 200 gallons purchased in a season equates to a $16 return — but when hundreds of members pool their refunds, it can mean a sizable return for their club.
"Where you do see more usage is with snowmobile associations, when a couple hundred members may apply for the refund and it goes back to the association itself," said Geoff Gloak, spokesman for the state Office of Real Property Tax Services.
The motor fuel tax exists to fund highways, and the refund is in place for vehicle owners who must the tax but don’t use their fuel for highway travel. Snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and commercial boats fit into this category. The refund could also be applied to gasoline that powers lawn mowers, generators or farming equipment, Gloak said.
People who apply for the refund can designate their club as the beneficiary on the application. All that’s required is receipts for the fuel purchases to ensure they are reasonable — an application claiming an exorbitant amount of fuel for a lawn mower may raise red flags, Gloak said.
The South Warren Snowmobile Club has been taking advantage of the refund for about five years, receiving about $600 each year, said Treasurer Mark McLain.
Members who participate keep their receipts and at the end of the snowmobiling season, McLain collects them and sends the information to the state. A check usually comes back to the group in July, and the money often goes toward fuel for the trail groomer, he said.
The Kingsbury Barnstormers snowmobile club has been taking advantage of the refund for years now, according to club Treasurer Hank Dashnaw.
In the past, the club has seen refunds ranging from $100 to more than $500, depending on the size of the membership, which in turn hinges on the winter conditions, Dashnaw said.
The club encourages members and people who use the trails to submit their receipts because the refund check goes toward a common cause: snowmobile trail maintenance. And the more receipts at the end of the season, the bigger the check for the clubs.
"It probably weighs a pound at the end of the season with all those receipts," Dashnaw said. "If you’re going to get very much money, you’re going to need a lot of them."