Congress Cracks Down on Safari Hunters

Aug 7, 2006 9:50am

Imagine going on the trip of a lifetime, stalking through the African jungle in pursuit of wild game.  Imagine staying in luxurious hotels halfway across the world.  Now imagine that this trip is tax deductible thanks to a federal loophole that allows trophy hunters to donate rare game to museums and then write off entire international hunting trips as tax deductible. That’s the way big game hunters wanted it, but members of Congress finally cracked down and closed the loophole last week. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) compared the system to going to Paris, purchasing a sweater, donating that sweater to charity and then getting a tax deduction for the entire trip. "The phoniness of this kind of donation called out for congressional action," said Grassley.  "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.  We’re taking the tax cheating out of taxidermy.  Charitable donations are supposed to help the needy, not the greedy." The loophole was officially closed when the Senate passed the Pension Protection Act of 2006. Now, if someone donates trophy game to charity, they will be awarded fair market value for the cost of their trophy, not for the cost of their trip.    The value of a springbok — that’s a gazelle, for you novices — trophy could have been worth as much as $5,000 when appraised on the former scale of "replacement value."  The old system measured the worth of a trophy based upon the cost of traveling, lodging and purchasing equipment all in order to kill this animal.  "You could go on an extravagant safari, donate a trophy to a charity and write off the expense of your entire trip at the cost of the American taxpayer," said Michael Markarian, the Executive VP of the Humane Society of the United States. According to estimates by the Joint Committee on Taxation, this change will credit the Treasury Department with $49 million over the next 10 years.

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