“Taxes are paid in the sweat of every man who labors.”
Over the past twenty years, particularly following since 9/11, I have noticed a dramatic increase in travel-related taxes. Thirty years ago, taxes were 10-40% of what they are today.
It is increasingly difficult to understand these taxes because the number of taxes has also gone up. The names of some of the taxes are confusing.
Nowadays, when you book airfare, most websites will include all taxes (but not fees) in the airfare they quote you.
Sometime before you buy the tickets, you will see an accounting of the various taxes included in the ticket price. Depending on where you go, these taxes will usually constitute between 5 and 50% of your total airfare.
On some exceptionally low-cost flights, you may even pay more in taxes than for the flight! (Some taxes are based on the percentage of the fare; others are a set amount per flight, and some even depend on the whether you fly Economy or First-Class)).
Of the 15 most popular destinations for American travelers, valuepenguin.com found that the UK charges the most substantial entry tax at $209; Jamaica and the Dominican Republic charge $158 and $146 in taxes, respectively.
Taxes in Mexico and Canada constitute about 30% of the average airfare.
US taxes range from approximately 15-40% of the airfare. (Generally, the lower the cost of the ticket, the higher the percentage of taxes paid). The following is a list of the taxes typically charged in the US:
- September 11 security fee ($5.60 each direction);
- Passenger facility charge (varies, but capped at $4.50-$18 per flight. Funds Federal Aviation Administration activities);
- Federal domestic segment fee ($4 per flight segment. A flight segment is one takeoff and one landing.)
- Travel facilities tax (only applicable to flights to/from/between the continental US and Alaska and Hawaii);
- Immigration user fee ($3 for flights arriving from countries near the US and $7 for countries farther away. Not charged for domestic flights);
- Customs user fee ($2.97 for flights arriving from countries near the US and $5.89 for countries farther away. Not charged for domestic flights);
- APHIS (for agricultural inspections) user fee ($3.97 per flight. Not charged for domestic flights);
- Federal excise tax (8% on domestic flights)
Generally, most taxes go toward:
- improving airports,
- airport security,
- air traffic control,
- tourist marketing and infrastructure, and
- occasionally, environmental mitigation.
A lot of travel experts believe that many governments use these fees for other purposes as well.
When flying internationally, be aware that occasionally (less and less frequently) you will need to pay a departure tax at the airport before departing the country. (Almost every airport imposes the tax. However, you usually pay the departure tax at the time of ticket purchase).