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Gas coupon sales in U.K. to end June 1

Air Force to implement fuel card system

By CHARLIE REED | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 25, 2008

RAF MILDENHALL, England — Military motorists here won’t be able to purchase new coupons to be used for tax-free gas off base as the Air Force prepares to replace its paper gas coupons with an electronic card-based system, 3rd Air Force officials announced Friday.

Coupons that already have been purchased can be used until June 30, though it is unclear when the new fuel cards will be issued, said Maj. John Haynes, 3rd Air Force spokesman.

Until the Air Force can finalize details with the British government on exactly how the new program will work, drivers will be able to purchase tax-free gas only at Army and Air Force Exchange Service pumps.

"This office is in active discussions with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to come to an agreement regarding an updated program," Maj. Gen. Jack Egginton, 3rd Air Force vice commander, said in a written statement. "We will provide more details once an agreement is met, hopefully allowing implementation during the upcoming summer."

Though the German government recently required the military to implement a similar fuel card system in that country, the move in England is unrelated.

The shift became necessary after the contractor that administers the fuel coupons for AAFES in England decided not to renew its contract a few months ago, Haynes said.

"It was kind of a surprise for us," he said. AAFES was "looking at something like this (fuel card) eventually. But [the coupons] we have in place we sort of expected to have for a while."

Because reduced-priced gas can be purchased off base for official duty only, the situation should not create a major disruption for most of the military community in the U.K., Haynes said.

A small contingent of Navy personnel stationed away from major U.S. installations in England will get priority when the new fuel cards are issued, he said.

Requests for refunds on coupons may be submitted — with a receipt and written explanation — at the location where they were purchased. AAFES will accept such requests up to July 31, after which refunds will be granted only for extenuating circumstances, according to a press release issued by Haynes. Coupons may not be sold, traded, bartered or otherwise transferred by the purchaser, it also stated. AAFES officials could not be reached for comment Friday.