The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is funded primarily by the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (Trust Fund or AATF) which receives revenues from a series of excise taxes paid by users of the national airspace system — and by the General Fund. The Airport and Airway Revenue Act of 1970 created the Trust Fund to provide a dedicated source of funding for the aviation system independent of the General Fund.
The Trust Fund's purpose was to establish sources of funding that would increase concurrently with the use of the system, and assure timely and long-term commitments to capacity increases. The Trust Fund was designed to finance investments in the airport and airway system and, to the extent funds were available, cover the operating costs of the airway system as well.
Trust Fund revenues are derived from excise taxes on:
- Domestic airline passenger tickets
- Domestic airline passenger flight segments
- International passenger arrivals and departures
- Air cargo waybills
- Aviation fuels
- Amounts paid for the right to provide mileage awards
The Current Aviation Excise Tax Structure and Rates (PDF) provides current and historical tax rates.
The largest source of excise tax revenues is from transportation of passengers. Taxes from transportation of passengers include the domestic passenger ticket tax, domestic flight segment fees, and taxes on mileage awards (frequent flyer tax). The next largest tax revenue source is the Use of International Air Facilities, i.e., the international arrival and departure fees.
At the beginning of FY 2015, the Trust Fund had a cash balance of $13.5 billion. The Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) Fact Sheet (PDF) provides a summary of facts about the Trust Fund.
The Treasury Department's Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD) prepares monthly income statements on Trust Fund revenues; these statements reflect monthly allocations of estimated excise tax payments to the Trust Fund. Updates on the income, activity, and balances of the fund are available at Government – Airport and Airway Reports – 69X8103.
Trust Fund forecasts are included in the FAA FY 2016 Budget Estimates document at the Department of Transportation's web site.