Information on Airport and Airway Trust Fund Revenues and Outlays by States and Large Airports

RCED-85-153: Published: Sep 30, 1985. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on revenues contributed to and disbursed from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, which the Federal Aviation Administration operates. The fund was established to ensure that air-user taxes are expended only for the expansion, improvement, and maintenance of the national air transportation system. GAO expressed reservations about its study because: (1) it could only estimate the amount of revenue attributable to each airport based on the number of passengers handled rather than on the amount paid into the fund by each airport; and (2) it could not allocate certain fund outlays by state or airport and had to estimate disbursements for certain activities, such as operations and maintenance.

GAO found that, from 1979 through 1983, the fund's revenues came from: (1) an 8-percent tax on commercial air passenger tickets; (2) a per capita departure tax levied on international air passengers; (3) a 5-percent tax on the amount paid for air cargo transportation; and (4) taxes on aircraft fuel, tires, and registration. The Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982 reauthorized the fund and established a program to disburse grants to states and airports from the fund based on factors such as air traffic volume, population density, and amount of geographical area served. GAO also found that: (1) of the 42 largest airports, those with the most estimated tax revenues generally received the lowest percentage of grant funds; (2) only 14 percent of total fund disbursements were received by these airports; and (3) the states with the highest estimated tax revenues also received a lower percentage of total disbursements. However, GAO found that the estimated dollar value of disbursements received by these states and airports was generally greater than that received by most other airports and states. GAO noted that the act required that fund revenues support the development of safe air transportation and did not require that states or airports receive an equitable return from tax revenues.

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