The Illinois Independent Tax Tribunal found that aviation fuel sold to airlines and subsequently stored at O’Hare International Airport was not exempt from Retailer’s Occupation Tax (ROT). The taxpayer collected the ROT on the sales, but later filed for refunds claiming these sales were exempt from the ROT under the expanded temporary storage exemption. Specifically, the exemption applies to: “tangible personal property purchased from an Illinois retailer by a taxpayer engaged in centralized purchasing activities in Illinois who will, upon receipt of the property in Illinois, temporarily store the property in Illinois (i) for the purpose of subsequently transporting it outside this State for use or consumption thereafter solely outside this State[.]” 35 ILCS 120/2-5(38) (Emphasis added).  The airlines advised the taxpayer that although airplanes received the fuel in Illinois, 98% of the fuel was consumed outside of the state. Based on this representation, the taxpayer filed refund claims arguing that such amounts were exempt from the ROT.

Relying on a case interpreting similar language in the context of the Use Tax Act, United Air Lines v. Mahin, 49 Ill. 2d 45 (1971), the tribunal broadly construed the word “solely” and thus narrowly construed the exemption. Because a portion of the fuel (i.e., approximately 2%) was consumed in Illinois, the tribunal determined that it was not stored in Illinois for use of consumption thereafter “solely” outside the State. Thus, based on the “plain language” of the rule, the tribunal found the exemption did not apply. The tribunal found that applying the temporary storage exemption on a percentage basis would be against the holding of United Air Lines, which the court was unwilling to overturn.

Am. Aviation Supply LLC v. Dep’t of Revenue, 21 TT 27, 21 TT 54 (IL Ind. Tax Tribunal, Jan. 3, 2023).