ST. LOUIS — Despite having some of the lowest gas taxes in the nation, Missouri drivers are still feeling the pinch when they fill up their tanks. Missouri's gas tax is currently 19.5 cents a gallon and hasn't seen an increase in nearly 25 years.
Compare that to California, which is said to have the highest tax at 68 cents a gallon. Illinois implements a 39 cents gas tax.
Still, that doesn't help Missouri drivers who are paying close to $5 for a gallon of gas. Drivers are looking for a break, and if they are vigilant, they may get one.
Missouri is increasing the state gas tax 2.5 cents every year for the next few years until the gas tax reaches about 30 cents a gallon. The first increment increase happened Oct. 1, 2021, and the next one is coming up on July 1. The catch? The increase in gas tax money is fully refundable for most Missouri drivers if they submit their receipts.
It's free money if drivers can save their receipts for several months and wade through state paperwork.
"It's time to start thinking about where our dollars are going," said Tammi Hilton, the founder of the No MO Gas Tax app. Since 5 On Your Side first featured her efforts to make the process easier, Hilton has been busy working with state leaders to make the app better and get out refunds quicker.
She said it's been an easy relationship because it ultimately makes the state's job easier. She said she's also been getting suggestions from state leaders on how to make the app more useful to get refunds out quickly.
It comes as the state has released the form for drivers to fill out for a refund. Hilton's goal for the app is to allow drivers to plug in their receipts, populate a digitized tax form and send it to the state. If the state could accept the form digitally, refunds could take a few days. If drivers have to use snail mail, it could increase the potential refund time by weeks.
"This year, most Missourians can see about $40 to $45 per vehicle," said Hilton. "[That's] if they're purchasing gas on a weekly or maybe twice a week."
It's not a life-changing difference, but the more vehicles one owns, the more money one could receive. And, small businesses could also benefit.
Vehicles under 26,000 pounds and registered in the state of Missouri are eligible for a refund. It's estimated the state would receive an estimated $500 million when fully implemented, paying for infrastructure.
Hilton has always said she believes in supporting infrastructure but that there are also other dollars allocated to that. At the end of the day, it's about taking advantage of free money since the state is betting that most Missourians won't have the stamina to collect receipts and submit them. Other states like South Carolina have similar programs.
"Let Missourians know there's money that we're leaving on the table," said Hilton.
On July 1, Missouri drivers can start submitting gas receipts from October 2021 through June.