Excise Tax Update

Excise Tax Update

While we all keep a very close eye on how the excise taxes that make up the American System of Conservation Funding are spent, we probably should be just as focused on the contributions into that funding model. Evaluating these contributions is a part of the Wildlife Management Institute’s ongoing Multi-State Conservation Grant to improve relationships between the state fish and wildlife agencies and the industries who contribute to the excise tax program.

The numbers for the first quarter of the federal Fiscal Year 2018 (October 1 thru December 31, 2017) are in (provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which gets them directly from the two collection agencies, the Internal Revenue Service and the Tax and Trade Bureau), and the trends and comparisons to last year are troubling. While the sport fish accounts somewhat held their own, the wildlife account dropped dramatically. Let’s take a look at the numbers:

The Sport Fish Restoration Account

The Trends:

If you take a look at the first quarter of this fiscal year and compare it to the same quarter of last fiscal year, here are your numbers.

Sport Fish Restoration Account Trends Table


The Funding Sources:

As you can easily see from the table above, we are up just a little (5%) in the overall collections. However, if you focus on the actual “fishing stuff” (rods, tackle boxes and other fishing equipment) the numbers show a stagnant market. As we have for at least the last couple of decades, the fisheries management programs are heavily dependent on fuel taxes, which make up roughly 63% of the total collections. Here is a pie chart that helps to display the importance of the various collection categories:

Sport Fish Restoration Account Funding Source Pie Chart


Wildlife Restoration Account

The Trends:

Now for the bad news. Here are the first quarter comparisons:

Wildlife Restoration Account Trends Table


The Funding Sources:

As you can see, the only good news is the increase in arrow shaft sales – the smallest of the collection categories. The big collection categories (pistols, firearms and ammunition) took a huge hit and overall, we are down 33% from the first quarter of last year. An important piece of information that we must not overlook in this collection data is the source of the funds. Roughly speaking, 10% of the collections are coming from archery and 30% each is coming from pistols, firearms and ammunition. Here is a pie chart that shows this a bit more dramatically:

Wildlife Restoration Account Funding Sources Pie Chart



Frankly, these numbers do not paint a very bright future for state fish and wildlife agency funding and the future of hunting and fishing. When you consider these numbers in combination with the recent trends we saw from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Related Recreation, and the age demographic information that is showing up in our license sales data, the importance of focused efforts on hunter and angler recruitment, retention and reactivation cannot be overstated.

Both the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation are providing strong leadership and distributing quality materials to help with this effort. In addition, they (along with industry and NGO partners) are sponsoring a National R3 Symposium May 21-23 in Lincoln, NE, which all partners concerned about boosting hunting and fishing participation should plan to attend.

Remember, if the declines in hunter and angler numbers continue, these industry excise tax contribution numbers will continue to drop and we will lose the most important piece of the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation – its funding infrastructure, the American System of Conservation Funding.

February 14, 2018