An environment lobby group believes the federal government can save billions of dollars by scrapping diesel fuel tax credits for some of Australia’s biggest polluters.

The Australian Conservation Foundation wants changes to the fuel tax credit system in next month’s budget, claiming it could return $15 billion over the forward estimates.

Its analysis shows five mining companies – including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – reap $366 million a year in taxpayer subsidies for fuel.

Fuel tax credits are designed to keep transport costs down for business.

Despite the mining industry accounting for one per cent of claims, the sector was granted 40 per cent of the total credits in 2012-13, the analysis found.

“If the government wants to create a fairer budget this year, it should reform this subsidy which encourages pollution and adds to the profits of already profitable private companies,” CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said.

The foundation is calling for a $20,000 cap per claimant by 2018-19, saying that would still allow farmers to access the tax credits.

The parliament last year passed bipartisan legislation to increase credits in order to offset the fuel excise imposed on ordinary drivers.

The Australian Greens tried unsuccessfully to exempt mining from the increases.

The foundation analysis matched mining company production figures against Australian Tax Office data to estimate tax credits claimed by coal miners.

It admits the analysis could be improved if companies published fuel consumption or credit amounts received.

Extracted in full from Nine News.