Published since 1946
Custom Duties - Missed Funding Opportunities
The role that excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment and motorboat and small engine fuels play in supporting the American System of Conservation Funding is well documented. One aspect of this conservation funding model that is less understood are the import duties collected on fishing, boating, hunting and recreational equipment that is manufactured in other countries and shipped into U.S. markets.
Import duties (commonly referred to as customs duties) became an important part of the American System of Conservation Funding when the drafters of the Dingell/Johnson Act recognized this as a new and significant source of funds that could be directed toward the support of fishery management by state wildlife agencies. Generally speaking, the import duty levied on any fishing and boating equipment adds roughly 10 percent to the Sport Fish and Boating Partnership Fund. In 2017, that equated to just over $59 million that made its way to state fishery agencies.
Unfortunately, the customs duties on hunting and recreational shooting related products have not found their way to state wildlife agencies. In 1986, as a part of the Emergency Wetlands Resources Act, some smart folks recognized and took advantage of an opportunity to capture the customs duties collected on firearms and ammunition. However, they elected to transfer those funds to the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to be used to purchase wetlands which normally become part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. While this is certainly better than seeing these funds going into the black hole of the federal treasury, one might wonder why these funds are not going into the Wildlife Restoration Fund and then to state wildlife agencies to support wildlife management activities.
Also being missed are the custom duties currently being collected on all the other hunting and recreational shooting equipment. If you wander through your favorite outdoor sports retailer and take the time to think about the equipment you purchase that is manufactured overseas, you can quickly understand the lost funding potential. Be it tree stands, ground blinds, rifle scopes, hunting clothing, hunting decoys, backpacks or anything else, the vast majority is manufactured overseas and the manufacturers or importers are likely paying an excise tax that is not supporting the management of our wildlife or otherwise contributing to the American System of Conservation Funding.
Tree stands, ground blinds, rifle scopes, hunting clothing, hunting decoys, backpacks... the vast majority is manufactured overseas and the manufacturers or importers are likely paying an excise tax that is not supporting the management of our wildlife or otherwise contributing to the American System of Conservation Funding.
The Wildlife Management Institute (with the support of a Multi-State Conservation Grant) is working with the state fish and wildlife agencies and our industry partners to better identify the magnitude of this missed funding source and to develop corrective strategies. Keep an eye on the Outdoor News Bulletin for updates on this effort.