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Wisconsin: Can Exemptions Curb Gun Violence?


 There is a move to exempt gun safes from Wisconsin sales tax.

Two Democratic representatives in Wisconsin are sponsoring several pieces of legislation they hope will curb gun violence in America’s Dairyland. One of them (AB 844/SB 637) would create a sales tax exemption for safes specifically designed to store guns.

In introducing the legislation, Rep. Terese Berceau noted the following:

“Approximately 32,000 people in this country die every year due to gun violence. An estimated 300,000 guns are stolen annually. About once a week, a toddler under the age of three gets hold of an unsecured firearm and shoots someone. If weapons are properly stored in gun safes, fewer unauthorized people can gain access to them.”

Rep. Melissa Sargent said simply, “[T]his is a public health crisis.”

The numbers do point to an alarming trend. According to a Washington Post article from October 2015, “Roughly once a week this year, on average, a small child has found a gun, pointed it at himself or someone else, and pulled the trigger.” Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for stricter gun laws, says many such incidences are avoidable: “[M]ore than two-thirds of these tragedies could be avoided if gun owners stored their guns responsibly and prevented children from accessing them.”

Wisconsin sales tax on a $1,500 gun safe would run between $74 and $84, depending on the local tax rate. Are those savings enough to encourage gun owners to purchase and install gun safes? If approved, the gun safe exemption would reduce state sales and use tax collections by approximately $314,000 annually. Local tax revenue would drop by approximately $23,000 per year.

The sales tax exemption for gun safes is only one leg of the stool to curb gun violence in Wisconsin. The other two are LRB 3806, which would create a task force on gun safety technology, and LRB 3714, which would eliminate state pre-emption of firearm regulations.

Changes in product taxability occur for all sorts of reasons. Keep track of them more easily with sales tax software (SaaS). Learn more.

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Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.