Washington, DC – The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted a Capitol Hill briefing, sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), where members of Congress, leaders of conservation organizations and industry representatives were informed about the inequity that exists in the excise tax payment schedule for firearms and ammunition manufacturers.
Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Dan Boren (D-OK) and Steve Pearce (R-NM), leadership of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), have introduced legislation, H.R. 6310, seeking to rectify a longstanding inequity in the collection of the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax (FAET). The FAET flows from the IRS through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to the state wildlife agencies and is the major source of conservation funding for the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.
HR 6310 will allow the firearms and ammunition industry to pay the FAET on a quarterly basis; the same payment schedule as every other industry that supports conservation. Currently firearms and ammunition manufacturers must pay the FAET bi-weekly. This payment schedule forces many manufacturers to borrow money to ensure on-time payment, and industry members spend thousands of man-hours administering the necessary paperwork to successfully complete the bi-weekly payments – monies that are due long before manufacturers are paid by their customers. Changing the schedules could free as much as $22 million annually for manufacturers to invest and contribute to industry growth, which in turn, would expand the FAET base.
One component of the schedule change would affect funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989 (NAWCA) to provide matching grants to organizations and individuals who have developed partnerships to carry out wetlands conservation projects North America to benefit migratory birds and other wildlife. One of several sources of funding is from interest accrued on the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.
According to estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a ‘cost’ to make the FAET payment schedule change would be a loss of not more than $2.6 million over 20 years in interest payments to the NAWCA account.
A proposal from NSSF to help rectify the shortfall in NAWCA funding is supported by North American Wetlands Conservation Council (NAWCC). The proposal asserts that the NSSF and its allies will supply monetary contributions to fund certain NAWCA projects and provide educational outreach about NAWCA.
At the briefing, the CSC co-chairs, Reps. Kind and Ryan, as outdoorsmen, stressed the importance of explaining the role that sportsmen and the firearms industry plays in wildlife conservation to their Congressional colleagues so that there was a clear understanding of how the FAET schedule affected state wildlife conservation programs.
NSSF President and CEO, Steve Sanetti said, “The firearms industry is not trying to get a tax break or avoid taxes; we just want parity with the other industries that support conservation.” Sanetti explained that the bi-weekly schedule places an administrative burden on the industry, costing manufactures millions that could be better spent reinvesting in their businesses. And, Sanetti repeated the NSSF pledge for funding NAWCA programs.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director H. Dale Hall detailed a brief history of the conservation ethic, the North American Model of Conservation and the funding mechanisms that began in the 1930s. He pointed out that the industry voluntarily stepped forward to pay for wildlife conservation efforts through the establishment of the Pittman-Robertson Fund.
About the proposed legislation, Director Hall said, “We cannot overestimate the importance of the funds paid by the firearms and ammunitions industry. I believe we need fairness across the board and support these efforts to make it fair.”
Gary L. Taylor, Legislative Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) stated that ‘on the ground’ state wildlife conservation programs have received $5.6 billion in funding since 1937. Each year, state wildlife agencies use $75 million to manage the 30 million acres of public lands purchased with Pittman-Robertson funding, spend $50 million on research and $25 million to fund Hunter Education programs which have, so far, served 24 million students. According to Taylor, state fish and wildlife managers support the legislation.
“It is critical that we continue to nurture and enhance the relationship between hunters and anglers, industry, and the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies in order to ensure the vitality and sustainability of the North American Model through the coming decades,” said Taylor.
Jay McAninch, President and CEO of the Archery Trade Association spoke about the 2004 change in the excise tax collection schedule for the archery manufacturers. He noted that the
change resulted in an increase in revenue from the archery industry to the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund of nearly $15-million; an increase of more than 50 percent.
CSF President Jeff Crane spoke about how the American system of wildlife conservation funding was the envy of the world. He said “The highly successful American system of funding wildlife conservation can benefit from the remedy this legislation would afford. It would be a big win for the firearms industry that would ultimately provide a bigger win for wildlife conservation and the sportsmen’s community.”
Quick facts: In 2007, the firearms and ammunition industry contributed a total of $303.2 million in excise taxes, up 21.2 percent from the $250.1 million in 2006. Earlier this year, the industry marked an important milestone in its longstanding support of wildlife conservation. Since 1991 manufacturers have contributed more than $3 billion dollars to the Pittman-Robertson Trust Fund.
About the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF)
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is the most respected and trusted proponent for hunters and fishermen in the political arena. With support from every major hunting and fishing organization, CSF is the leader in promoting sportsmen’s issues with elected officials. CSF works directly with the bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus in the U.S. Congress, as well as affiliated state sportsmen’s caucuses in state legislatures around the country. For additional information, visit www.sportsmenslink.org or call 202-543-6850.