Private jet travel has surged in the US in the last few years and accounts for 1 in every 6 flights.
But private flyers pay just 2 percent of the taxes that fund the Federal Aviation Administration.
This is according to a 2023 report by the Institute for Policy Studies and Patriotic Millionaires.
Private jet travel has surged in the US over the last few years and now accounts for one in every six flights handled by the Federal Aviation Administration's air-traffic controllers. But this heavily polluting form of travel, which is enjoyed by the ultra-wealthy, is hugely subsidized by average American taxpayers.
Private jet travelers pay just two percent of the taxes used to fund the FAA, according to a report published in May 2023 by the Institute for Policy Studies and Patriotic Millionaires.
Commercial flyers must pay a tax on every ticket equivalent to 7.5% of the fare price. But private flyers only pay jet-fuel tax. And while commercial plane tickets have increased in price in recent years, jet-fuel costs have remained steady, the report found, meaning that commercial travelers are ponying up an increasing portion of the taxes.
"Jet fuel taxes made up $186 million of the more than $8 billion in tax revenue that was allocated to the AATF in FY2021, or about 2 percent of the fund's total tax revenue," the report read. "Meanwhile, more than half of the AATF's tax revenue — $5.32 billion — came from passenger taxes."
Private jets also use almost 3,000 of the country's smaller airports that aren't used by any commercial airlines, but are funded in part by the FAA, the report found. So taxpayers are subsidizing infrastructure that commercial flyers don't use. The funds the FAA sends to these airports, known as general aviation airports, are generated in large part from taxes on commercial travelers.
Chuck Collins, the director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and a coauthor of the report, said the scheme means average Americans are not only suffering from the adverse environmental impacts of private jets, but are also subsidizing that harm.
"Private aviation is an excess," Collins told Business Insider. "This is a symptom of the growing concentration of wealth that we've lived through for the last 40 years and has kind of accelerated in the last 15 years."
He added, "It's not luxury that has no impact on the rest of us — it has a huge impact."
Private airplane travel is significantly worse for the environment than commercial flight travel, since private jets carry far fewer people. Private jets emit up to 14 times more climate-warming pollution per passenger than commercial planes, according to a report by the NGO Transport & Environment in 2021.
The IPE and Patriotic Millionaires recommended that the government double the federal jet-fuel tax — from $0.219 per gallon to $0.438 per gallon — to discourage short flights and fund sustainability efforts.
"If we can't phase it out, we should tax it at a high level and use that money to build a better transit system," Collins said.
The report estimated that Elon Musk — who was the most active private flyer in the US in 2022, with 171 flights — would've paid nearly $97,000 in federal jet fuel taxes on the approximately 221,358 gallons of jet fuel he consumed that year under the proposed higher tax.
The report also recommends implementing a "short hop" surcharge on private flights that are shorter than 210 miles — about the distance between New York City's JFK airport and DCA airport near Washington, DC — and a higher tax on private flights shorter than 100 miles.
But Collins said that advocates calling for raising taxes on private fliers would face steep opposition from powerful, well-funded industry lobbyists.
"In a real democracy that wasn't captured by the wealthy, you know, we might turn up the dial and tax it even at a higher level," Collins said, "but the reality is we're gonna have a holy fight just to have a modest increase in the fuel tax."
Read the original article on Business Insider