Congress votes to shut down trophy hunting tax scam
AMY LORENTZEN Associated Press Writer DES MOINES, Iowa — Congress has taken aim at trophy hunters, voting to shut down a tax loophole that allows them to deduct the cost of expensive hunting excursions.
The issue came to lawmakers' attention after the Humane Society of the United States conducted a two-year investigation into a scam where they said hunters shot rare animals from around the world, then donated them to phony museums in order to get charitable tax deductions.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, helped push the provision through as part of the recently passed pension reform bill, saying "the phoniness of this kind of donation called out for congressional action."
Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the HSUS, told The Associated Press on Saturday that pseudo museums were set up in hunters' own living rooms. He said investigators also found about 800 "donated" trophy mounts gathering dust in an old railroad car in Nebraska.
"The trophy hunting boondoggle bilked the federal treasury of millions of dollars, and encouraged more killing of wildlife, including rare species," he said. "This fraud went on too long, but Congress has now acted to make the law unambiguous and prohibit individuals from engaging in this shameful tax dodge."
The move to end the tax loophole could save American taxpayers an estimated $49 million over the next decade, Markarian said.
The pension legislation that includes the hunting provision was approved by the Senate this week and the House last week, and is expected to be signed by President Bush.
Markarian said one "safari swindle" involved a big game hunter who shot exotic animals in Asia, Africa and in a canned hunt in the United States, "writing off his hunting trip at the expense of the IRS and American taxpayers."
Grassley said "it's ridiculous that a museum gets pennies for a dusty boar's head sitting in a railway car, while a donor gets big tax breaks for his African safari."
"Charitable donations are supposed to help the needy, not the greedy," he added.
One of the museums the HSUS targeted was the Wyobraska Wildlife Museum in Gering, Neb. A man who answered the telephone at the museum on Saturday said he didn't have time to talk and hung up. A message left for the Chicago Appraisers Association, also targeted by the HSUS, wasn't immediately returned.
Markarian said the tax deductions were engineered by trophy appraisers. He said they advertised to hunters with such slogans as "Hunt for Free" and "7 Secrets of Tax Deductible Hunting." The appraisals, he said, were extraordinarily generous and often made by viewing photos instead of actually seeing the mount.
The appraisals, he said, were based on replacement value of the trophy mount, which included adding up the costs of the hunt such as airfare, lodging, guide fees, taxidermy and other expenses. Markarian said the more animals that were hunted, the more rare the species became, garnering a higher replacement value for the donation, therefore a better tax break for the hunter to pay for the next excursion.
The provision backed by Grassley said the donations must now have comparable sales data to accompany IRS tax forms. Instead of a hunter claiming the cost of flying to Africa to kill an exotic antelope or other animal, Markarian said they can now only claim what it would cost to buy the antelope trophy on the open market, and any donations over $5,000 would have to be appraised by the IRS Art Board or by a certified agent.
"This will not only save wild animals and exotic animals from being killed, but will also save the American taxpayer tens of millions of dollars," he said.
Posts: 1639 | From: Platte River | Registered: Jan 2004
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Heck I am surprised our loyal politicians passed this. I bet most of them were doing this very same thing.
Posts: 700 | From: Training labs and dreaming of white | Registered: Jul 2002
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This is not any different than someone taking advantage of any other tax write off available. Private businesses write off trips to the Bahamas for corporate executives and Congress continually exempts themselves from the very laws they pass.
I think the bigger issue here is keeping track of what the HSUS is doing. This was another small victory for them in their ultimate quest to ban hunting period. They would like nothing better than having an out right ban on all hunting. Their claim was they were trying to help the American taxpayer when in fact they saw it as an opportunity to further their objective.
They’ll keep chipping away at our right taking small victories here and there. Keep an eye on what they’re doing even if it doesn’t affect your particular style of hunting. Some day they’ll come after you and there may not be anyone left to support you.
Posts: 14 | From: Omaha | Registered: Aug 2005
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regardless of HSUS and their desired ends, i have serious issues with people abusing this tax deductability like they are/were.
now let's find a way to start holding businesses responsible for the other deductions they claim. if i'm paying for someone's trip to hawaii, i'd better be on that plane too.
Posts: 745 | Registered: Mar 2005
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