Published since 1946
ICAST 2021 - Back to Normal?
For those not connected to the fishing industry, “ICAST” is short for the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. It’s a catchy acronym and represents the American Sportfishing Association’s annual trade show where manufacturers, wholesalers/distributors, and retailers come together to show off new products and prepare for sharing them with the consumer. The show also presents the opportunity for the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, and conservation organizations to meet with the fishing industry to talk about their role in the American System of Conservation Funding.
ICAST 2021 was unique in that it followed a totally virtual ICAST 2020 and it is the first of the major industry trade shows to get back to being an in-person event. We will see if January 2022 brings conditions suitable for the Archery Trade Association Show and the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s SHOT Show to be in-person events.
As most readers of the Outdoor News Bulletin know, the WMI (supported by a Multistate Conservation Grant) works with the state and federal agencies and the major industries (fishing, boating, archery, hunting, and the shooting sports) to improve the relationships between the industries who pay Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration excise taxes and the agencies who put those taxes to use. These excise taxes allow state agencies to manage for healthy fish and wildlife populations and provide and expand opportunities for hunters to get afield, and anglers and boaters to get on the water—the model that makes up the American System of Conservation Funding. WMI works with the industry associations and the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies to organize an agency presence where the excise tax paying industries can better understand how the tax they pay is being used.
This year, two states (South Carolina and Florida) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) were the main exhibitors in “Conservation Corner” – that area of the ICAST Show floor dedicated to the conservation organizations and agencies that are so important to the health of the industry. Throughout the show, the agency representatives were on the floor engaging with their industry partners and simply saying “thanks” for their support of fishery management, angler and boater access, and conservation in general. With the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agencies put on a “Lunch and Learn” session where show attendees could take a lunch break and learn about how the excise taxes are being spent. While it is hard to “sell” someone that a 10% excise tax is a good thing, I’m confident that these state and federal agency professionals turned heads and changed minds within the industry.
Another aspect of the WMI presence at ICAST 2021 (as well as the other industry trade shows) relates to the actual payment of the excise tax. Working with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), FWS, and the American Sportfishing Association, WMI provides a special seminar designed for the financial officers of newer manufacturers. The purpose of this seminar is to help these new industry partners as they try to better understand their excise tax responsibilities. Hopefully this will help them to get started calculating and paying their excise taxes correctly. This year, the industry attendees numbered around 40—the highest attendance in the five years we have been hosting this excise tax seminar. In addition, FWS and WMI staff walked the show floor and talked to every first-time exhibitor who manufactures excise-taxable products. Again, our purpose is to make sure they have a good understanding of their excise tax responsibilities—it’s always better for a new manufacturer to learn about this significant tax responsibility now rather than hear about it after they have been manufacturing and selling for a year or two. This year our team spent time with over 50 new manufacturers and, if past years are any indication, we expect to have more detailed conversations with dozens of these new manufacturers over the next months as their financial staff dive into this issue and have follow-up questions.
While the ICAST 2021 exhibitor space and attendee numbers may have been a little smaller this year, the enthusiasm on the floor was not—the fishing and boating industries are ready to get back to normal. New ideas and new manufacturers continue to surface and the need to educate these new faces on excise tax issues is always a challenge. The WMI and our partners (IRS, FWS, and state fish and wildlife agencies) will continue to find these new industry faces and ensure they are fully educated in their excise tax obligations and to ensure that the industries understand this reliable source of annual funding for state fish and wildlife agencies that we know as the American System of Conservation Funding.