Oklahoma Eyes Horse Sales Tax

“The governor’s staff projection was that it would generate $1.3 million,” Schauf continued. “The truth is that the horse industry in Oklahoma already pays $102 million annually in taxes. That’s just attributable to the horse industry. We pay $22 million in special taxes from pari-mutuel wagering and gaming that goes to education. We pay $12.2 million in payroll taxes, and we pay $68 million in real estate and property taxes. So it really doesn’t make sense to try to fill a $1.5 billion gap in revenue for the state with a $1.3 million tax against an industry that’s already paying you a $102 million and that will just take their business somewhere else to avoid the tax. The horse industry contributes $3.6 billion a year to the Oklahoma economy. That’s almost 10 percent of the entire ag industry for a year.”

According to the Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, the agriculture industry is a $44 billion a year industry in Oklahoma. It is directly and indirectly responsible for 125,000 jobs, and the horse industry accounts for 35,000 of those jobs, Schauf said.

“We’re clearly the most labor-intensive, highest employment segment of agriculture in the state,” she said.  

Oklahoma has a rich history of hosting many national and international equine events each year. With so many equine activities, many horsemen have located to the state to be close to the action. It is in the top three nationally for number of horses in the state.

Schauf said that quick research estimates landed at 46,400 attendees at horse sales in Oklahoma and 7,200 horses sold through public auction in 2014.

 “Those sales created a $10 million economic income,” Schauf said. “Ninety percent of that was done by out-of-state people who came to buy or sell their horses. If you figure that 90 percent of that $10 million of economic impact isn’t going to come because they can go to any neighboring state and not pay sales tax, that’s a pretty scary number.”

Carpenter echoed the possibility of finding a more economically friendly option if Oklahoma began collecting sales tax on horses.

“The best venue for our sale is during the [NRHA] Futurity in Oklahoma City,” Carpenter said. “We have people from all over the world here. It’s a one-stop shop for showing and watching the best compete, and for looking for the next champion. It would be disappointing to think about tearing that apart, but we may not have a choice if our bottom line takes a hit.” 

At its May 2015 sale in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Jim Ware’s Triangle Sales Company had buyers from three foreign countries and 29 states represented. These visitors spend money on more than just horses while in the state, pumping money into an Oklahoma economy that is hurting from the decreases in oil and gas business. 

“I think it’s a very huge example of unintended consequences by someone that hasn’t researched the consequences of their actions,” Schauf said. “I don’t think we are safe until the legislature goes home. Anyone that calls me about it, I tell them that they still need to call their legislators and tell them what a bad idea it is because it could crop again at any time.” 

For that reason Joe Carter, a veterinarian at the Oklahoma Equine Hospital in Washington, Oklahoma, and a member of the board of trustees for the Oklahoma Veterinary Association, took to social media to ask horsemen to voice their opinions.

“This means whenever you sell a horse in Oklahoma you will need to charge or pay a tax on the sale of that horse. And it’s a hefty one at that! I am asking you to contact the Governor’s office, your state senator and your state house member and tell them you oppose this change in the law,” Carter wrote.

“Horses are our heritage,” he added. “They are as much a part of Oklahoma as the red dirt on which we stand. Our state began with the Run of 1889 where prospective settlers raced across the unassigned lands to stake their claim. They did this on horseback. Our state started with a horse race!”

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