The 2016 IFTA/IRP Audit Workshop in Las Vegas was another incredible opportunity to learn something new. Here are five things I learned this week:
1. There’s more to the audit workshop than what’s on the agenda.
While sessions officially begin at 8 or 8:30 a.m., people start talking business at 7 a.m. when breakfast is served. Representatives from government and industry sit down together, networking and chatting about various issues. Introductions are made, ideas exchanged. These conversations continue in the halls during breaks or over dinner or perhaps a beverage after the formal meetings have finished for the day.
If you have questions about how to do your job or how the rules apply to you, don’t miss out on opportunities to tap into the expertise around you.
2. Big data is a big issue.
The whole idea behind IFTA and IRP is that it’s supposed to be a simpler way for member states and provinces to manage fuel tax and make sure every jurisdiction gets its fair share.
But going electronic is complicated.
Right now, there is no standard way to “read” electronic data among IFTA jurisdictions. There are many different types of bar codes, scanners, and other smart devices out there, and it’s expensive to outfit inspectors with new hardware. Converting government databases to a common set of information will require a lot of trial and error, and it takes time for everyone—government and industry alike—to change and adjust accordingly.
It is extremely important for data to be “clean” in order for everyone to be satisfied that they can trust it. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to rely on accurate reliable information. We’re all going to be looking to the IFTA and IRP organizations for leadership and collaboration on the issue of managing data, especially as it relates to electronic credentials.
3. Electronic credentials are coming.
A credential, as we say in the language of IFTA, is traditionally a piece of paper and a set of decals to indicate that a carrier is licensed to report and pay fuel tax. But is a piece of paper really necessary? Just because you have paper credentials doesn’t mean they’re valid or prove that you paid your tax. On the other hand, maybe you’ve filed your returns and are fully paid up but don’t have a physical copy of your credentials.
What does a piece of paper prove anyway? We’re about to find out.
IFTA and IRP have each set up task forces to study electronic credentialing. The state of Wisconsin is working with other states on a plan to accept a PDF copy of an IFTA license on a smart device. There are even some companies that are making their IFTA license available to their drivers through a link on the company website.
Starting next month and running through November, IFTA is conducting a pilot project on electronic credentials. For participating carriers, credentials will be available for display as PDFs on tablets, smartphones, an other devices. Carriers will still be required to carry paper credentials and affix decals to their IFTA-licensed vehicles, but clearly we’re moving toward an electronic format.
Of course, no one can agree on how it should roll out and when, but there are steps being taken in that direction.
4. Vote yes on dual fuels conversion.
If you use CNG or LNG, you should be watching what’s happening with regarding to reporting that type of fuel on your IFTA return. Governments want to collect tax on dual fuels and need to determine proper units of measure so they can be converted to a diesel equivalent.
Here is a link to the ballot. If this is something that will affect you, work with your jurisdiction to get them to vote YES on this ballot. It is not a slam-dunk, and you should also be working with your jurisdiction to support them in getting the IFTA ballot for the diesel fuel equivalent passed. Just saying.
5. Lots of people work very hard to put on a great Workshop
It was a large group this year—215 attendees from all over North America.
I think we all came away with a better understanding of the audit process and the issues surrounding IFTA and IRP.
Thank you to everyone who organized this event.