Fuel card abuse leads to fines, loss of license

by Robert Szostek
U.S. Army Customs Agency- Europe Public Affairs
Courtesy graphic

WIESBADEN, Germany – The Army & Air Force Exchange Service fuel card allows U.S. personnel to fill their vehicles with tax-free fuel in Germany. Yet some individuals aren’t grateful enough to have this money-saving advantage and make illegal transactions by selling or giving part of their rations to people who are not authorized to have a fuel card.

“Our customs investigators are constantly on the look-out for suspicious transactions,” said Fred Evans, chief of customs investigations at the USAREUR Office of the Provost Marshal. Using the system’s data base, investigators can spot many types of violations.

Abuse of the fuel card can lead to hefty fines from German customs authorities and a loss of driving privileges from the U.S. side. Evans cited several violations that fuel card users must avoid.

First, the card is only to be used for the vehicle it is assigned to. Using it to put gas into another car is a violation. Evans explained that fuel card users must get a temporary fuel card if they rent a vehicle. AE Form 550-175L, the U.S. Forces POL Authorization for Rental Vehicles or Privately Owned Vehicles Registered in Europe but not in Germany, is available at all military customs offices for this purpose.

Second, the person using the card may only buy the kind of fuel specified on the card. “So if you have a diesel vehicle but purchase gasoline with the diesel card, our agents will start an investigation because something illegal or improper is obviously going on,” Evans explained.

Jerry cans are another problem area. While it is not unlawful to fill up a fuel can with tax-free gasoline, the cans offer tax cheats the opportunity to transport and sell tax-free gas to others who are not authorized tax-free privileges. Evans encourages anyone who sees someone using a fuel card to fill up several fuel canisters at one time to write down the license plate number and report it to customs.

One recent case involved an American who for years had been selling gasoline bought with the fuel card to friends who were not authorized to buy tax-free fuel. German customs fined the man €22,000 and ordered him to pay €37,000 in unpaid taxes.

“Abuse of the AAFES fuel card system means some regular citizens in Germany avoid paying taxes to the German government,” Evans went on. “If these losses become unacceptable, German authorities could abolish the system and make U.S. Forces members pay the full price for gas that the average German citizen pays. U.S. Army Customs Agency – Europe is taking strict action to prevent such abuse and protect our tax-free entitlements.”

More information on the fuel card system is available on the AAFES website at www.aafes.com/exchange-stores/overseas/germany-fuel-ration/. Information on the temporary fuel card can be found at www.eur.army.mil/opm/customs/shorttermfuel.htm.