Dedicated Sales Tax on Outdoor Gear

Summary

In keeping with the present framework of the American System of Conservation Funding, a state-level sales tax on outdoor gear can provide an additional dedicated revenue source for agencies that manage both game and non-game species.

Introduction

Conservation funding in the United States is largely a “user-pays, public benefits” structure in which those that consumptively use the resource pay for the privilege and/or the right to do so. State agencies are the primary managers of game and non-game species, as well as their habitats. Thus, ensuring adequate funding for state agencies is vitally important to the continued responsible management of fish and wildlife. Sporting license sales, as well as excise tax revenue collected through the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux Acts provide important revenue streams for these agencies and in some cases nearly 100% of the overall budget of state wildlife management agencies.

In keeping with the present framework of the American System of Conservation Funding, a state-level sales tax on outdoor gear will provide additional revenue for these agencies. Presently, both Texas and Virginia have dedicated a portion of their state sales tax specifically for conservation purposes. In both instances, a portion of the taxes that are already in place on outdoor sporting gear are re-directed to a state conservation fund.

Points of Interest

  • A sales tax on outdoor gear maintains the “user-pays, public-benefits” principle that is already in place through the American System of Conservation Funding and does not levy any additional tax burden on the consumer.
  • A dedicated tax on outdoor gear can generally be passed with simple legislation and can have low overall administrative costs.
  • The Texas Sporting Goods Sales Tax generates up to $32 million per year.
  • In 2018 Georgia passed the Outdoor Stewardship Act (HB 332) the legislation would provide a dedicated funding mechanism for the conservation for priority lands, the stewardship of state parks and wildlife management areas, and the support of local parks and preserves by establishing the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund. The Trust Fund would be supported by 0.75 percent of all sales and use tax in the prior year and would be dedicated for the purpose of the protection and preservation of conservation land. The effort has long been a conservation issue in the state and would only become law if passed as a constitutional amendment when it’s on the ballot in November 2018.
  • In 2018 voters in Georgia approved Amendment 1. The approved language amended the state constitution to authorize up to 80 percent of revenue from the sales and use tax on outdoor recreation equipment to be dedicated to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to fund land conservation the revenue derived from the state sales of outdoor recreation equipment.  The money is put into a trust fund to be used for conservation purposes.

Moving Forward

If properly constructed, a sales tax on outdoor gear can provide a substantial source of revenue for state fish and wildlife agencies, particularly if safeguards are put in place that prevent the funds from being diverted to other accounts. Legislators should explore and support options similar to a dedicated sales tax on outdoor goods to expand conservation funding in their states. 

Contact

For more information or sources regarding this issue, please contact Nick Buggia, 517-260-6437, nbuggia@congressionalsportsmen.org.

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