In keeping with the present framework of the American System of Conservation Funding, a state-level sales tax on outdoor gear can provide additional revenue for agencies that manage both game and non-game species.
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 habitat. 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. Estimates place the total contribution of sportsmen at upwards of 80%, in some cases around 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 (Page 32) 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 2017, Georgia proposed HR 238, which proposes an amendment to the Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to provide by general law for an annual allocation of a specified percent of 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.
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.
For more information or sources regarding this issue, please contact Nick Buggia, 517-260-6437, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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