March 14, 2017

Credit: Ecointersect




A new bill – HB 115 – is being proposed by Alaska lawmakers would require that skippers collect an as yet undefined amount of each crew’s wages and remit it to the state Department of Revenue.

“Let’s say it is 3 percent – so I’d have to collect 3 percent from my crew and send that in and we’re saying that for the IRS we are considered fishermen doing fishing activities. All we are required to do is send in a 1099 when you’re doing fishing activities.”

Jerry McCune is president of United Fishermen of Alaska. UFA is the nation’s largest fishing industry trade group representing 34 member groups, from small salmon boats to big crab boats and at-sea processors.  UFA strongly opposes the tax turn around.

“We don’t want to be tax collectors, we just want to be able to send a 1099 to the state and then they collect from the crews. We have no idea what their taxes are and I think they are going to make more work for themselves. Because even if I collect the money, I could be under collecting or over collecting.  So they are going to have to collect more money or give money back. So I think it is cleaner the way it is as contractors – and we are the only ones singled out as that.”

Alaska’s budget crisis is dominating the legislative session and McCune says UFA is closely watching the tax collecting bill, which is scheduled for Finance committee hearings today (Tuesday) and on Friday. McCune says at this point not too many fishermen are aware of the proposed law.

“We don’t know what the end result is so it’s kind of hard to assess the impact on the industry until we see what actually is going to go forward here in the form of taxes or no taxes. It’s going to be. We can’t absorb all those taxes as fishing industry and still stay solvent, so we are keeping an eye on all the taxes that are being proposed. “

Another bill aims to boost the fuel tax by a nickel to 10 cents, then to 15 cents by 2019. Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak added language that would give a 3 cent rebate, but McCune says there is lots of resistance to the fuel tax.

“It is a concern because fuel is a big cost for a lot of fishermen.”

Contact UFA in Juneau with any questions. Also, ballots are in the mail to select four new UFA members. UFA’s Mark Vinsel —

“We had an unprecedented 17 qualified  applicants  – that should be arriving in mailboxes. Voting runs to the end of March and the board members will be seated April 15.”  

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