Animal Aid

Shooting's Burden on the Taxpayer

Posted 11 June 2013

Psst! Heard the one about the £1.6 billion industry reliant upon the taxpayer and ratepayer to pay for the routine licensing of the tools of its trade?

Why is the cost of administering the firearm licensing scheme in the United Kingdom not anywhere near met by the firearm owners? According to recent media reports, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has called for shotgun and firearm owners to pay for a huge funding gap of at least £19 million. Gun owners are charged £50 for a licence, but ACPO reckons that each costs £200 in administration.

Animal Aid congratulates ACPO for declaring, albeit belatedly, that it is bleeding ratepayers’ money from police operating funds to the benefit of the participants in a minority ‘sport’. But will this pro-hunting and shooting government listen?

As far back as August 2010, we reported to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee, during its examination of Firearms Control, that the cost of firearms administration was not matched by receipts from licence holders and applicants. We proved with simple arithmetic that Police Firearms Licensing Departments could not possibly pay their way with the receipts from firearms licences.

We also asked why firearms licensing is the business of police forces. This question is even more valid with the present government reducing police resources and budgets. Other forms of licensing and tax collection are operated by government agencies such as the DVLA, the Valuation Office Agency, and, of course, HMRC.

Animal Aid calls upon the government to set up a Firearms Licensing Agency. The agency should be self-financing at no cost to the taxpayer or the ratepayer. Its operating costs should be entirely met by the firearms licence holders and applicants. It is clear from its own admission that the wealthy shooting industry can afford to pay for a new agency. It could also make more of a contribution to taxation. HMRC has identified a whole series of shooting scams in VAT evasion. This followed a detailed briefing from Animal Aid. And, only last month, we provided another clutch of game farm addresses for investigation, with respect to the non-payment of Business Rates.

The government could also look to generating not only operating costs but also valuable income from firearms licensing, as it does from other taxation.

The Cost to the Public of the Firearms and Shotgum Licensing System

  1. On 7 June 2010, a letter was published in the Daily Telegraph from Cumbrian Firearms Licensing Inquiry Officer Mick Turner. He pointed out that, despite evidence written to the contrary on the Cumbria Police web site, applicants for firearm and shotgun certificates in Cumbria are visited every time an application is made.
  2. It has already been shown that there are 9,868 shotgun certificate holders in Cumbria covering well over twice as many shotguns. Each certificate holder would need to be visited at least once every 5 years, making almost 2,000 visits a year. The visits must be achieved in the 260 working days of each year.
  3. For Cumbria shotguns alone (not including other firearms), there must be nearly eight home visits a day by Firearms Licensing Inquiry Officers. Assuming that many visits are to and from the county’s rural areas, it can be assessed that an Inquiry Officer can make only two thorough inquiries per working day. The total of Cumbrian visits could involve at least 4 Firearms Licensing Inquiry Officers. Using the same figures, an officer could make only 520 routine visits per year at a nominal cost of £48 per visit.
  4. Using the national average wage of £25K and ignoring the much higher capitation rates of public sector workers, home visits alone must exceed a cost of £100K in Cumbria. The total cost of running a Firearms Licensing Department is a questionable burden for the Cumbrian taxpayer. The cost of a shotgun certificate is currently £50 and its renewal is £40.
  5. It is not understood why firearms and shotgun licensing is the responsibility of the police. Other licensing, such as vehicle licensing is managed, probably more cost- effectively, by agencies. A single agency could probably be more consistent than the 52 police forces in the UK. Devolving firearms and shotgun licensing to a central agency could reduce the financial burden on the taxpayer and ratepayer and leave enforcement of firearms and shotgun law to the police. There would also be an opportunity for central government to generate tax income from firearms and shotgun licensing.

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