FEDERAL EXCISE TAXES
A milestone in conservation history occurred in 1937 with the
passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act, also known
as the Wildlife Restoration Act. Strongly supported by
hunters, this legislation transferred receipts from a 10 percent
excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition from the general
treasury to state wildlife conservation programs.
This tax was raised to 11 percent during World War II and now
yields $163 million per year for wildlife conservation
Modeled after the Wildlife Restoration Act, the Sport Fish
Restoration Act, was passed in 1950.
The Sport Fish Restoration legislation was sponsored by Senator
Edwin Johnson of Colorado and Representative John Dingell, Sr. of
Michigan and is commonly known as the Dingell-Johnson Act.
In 1970, again with hunter support, the Dingell-Hart Bill was
enacted, making a 20 percent excise tax on handguns available for
wildlife restoration and hunter safety training. Proceeds
from this tax provide some $41 million per year.
The archery community entered the picture in 1972 with the
passage of the Dingell-Gooding bill, specifying an 11 percent
excise tax on archery equipment.
In 1984, the Sport Fish Restoration Act was amended. The
"Wallop-Breaux" amendment included additional fishing equipment in
the calculation, an import duty on recreational boats, and a
portion of marine fuel tax revenue. This amendment included funding
for aquatic education programs as an eligible activity.
Proceeds from this tax provide some $100 million a
All proceeds from these excise taxes are divided among the 50
state wildlife agencies. Each state's share is based on its
land area and number of licensed hunters and anglers. Funds
cover about 75 percent of the bill for approved wildlife and fish
restoration projects and total some $560 million per year.
The combination of these taxes has formed one of the best
programs ever devised for the benefit of wildlife, game and
non-game species alike and has enabled the states to greatly expand
their conservation activities.
More than half of the revenue generated by the P-R Act is used
to buy, develop, maintain, and operate wildlife management
areas. These activities include planning feed and cover,
restocking game, constructing marshes and ponds for waterfowl and
providing watering places for wildlife in arid areas.
Another major use of these funds is research, which contributes
to sound wildlife management and effective control of wildlife
It is important to realize that land acquisition from taxes on
sporting arms and ammunition provides the non-hunting public, as
well as the hunter, with state-owned recreation grounds.
How does the model work?
Manufacturers of hunting and shooting arms and ammunition,
archery equipment and fishing equipment pay an excise tax on the
equipment they produce. These funds, combined with a tax on
motorboat fuels, are collected by the federal government and
distributed to each state's fish and wildlife agency. State
fish and wildlife agencies then combine these funds with revenue
from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses to conserve, manage
and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats and to create fish
and wildlife recreational and educational opportunities.
Text courtesy of the National Shooting
Sports Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service