Your tax dollars effectively subsidize big game hunters on their safaris. Big game hunters get big tax breaks if they can find the right museum to take their trophies -- even the heads and skins of endangered species.
One such museum that accepts mounted heads and animal skins is Wyobraska Wildlife Museum in Gering, Nebraska. Back in 2000, the museum took in $1.4 million worth of big game trophies. That shot up to $5 million last year. The Washington Post reports they've got a rail car loaded with 800 animals that came in with that batch.
Lobbying for Safari Tax Breaks
The Safari Club International is the big lobbyist for big game hunters. They've been able to fight for tax breaks that have some safari organizers advertising "Hunt for Free." The breaks actually pay for the hunting trips.
SCI's Political Action Committee contributed $203,900 to federal candidates in the 2004 election. Their PAC also made $55,345 in independed expenditures for President Bush's re-election effort.
SCI's IRS Form 990 shows the outfit had a nearly $11 million budget in 2003 to carry out it's lobbying efforts.
The Hunters Become the Hunted
The Senate Finance Committee goes on the big hunt today to see how abuses in "non-cash donations" like the animal heads are appraised. Often, they are appraised for several times their market value when donated to a museum.
That's because they use a "cost of replacement" loophole in the tax code. Hunters quote the price of going back on the trail and killing the same critter all over. But that loophole only applies when there is no market for the goods being replaced. And the IRS says there are auction houses that trade in animal trophies.
That little twist could put hunters in the auditors' crosshairs. (WashPost)
[Crossposted at BlogCritics.org]