This agency can be traced back almost to the time of the founding of America. To get revenue for the Federal branch of government, there wasn’t an income tax and, surprise, the country thrived. At the time it was decided that “sin” taxes were the best way for the Feds to raise money. The federal government then levied a federal excise tax (FET) on alcohol and tobacco produced in this country. These taxes were collected by A&T revenuers. In summary, the A&T was a branch of the Department of the Treasury. As a matter of fact, federal excise taxes and import duties were the only sources of revenue to the Federal government right up to 1910.
This went on with A&T revenuers until firearms were added to their list. Then they became the ATF.
In the 30’s the Arms and ammunition producers went to the federal government “voluntarily” suggesting the government impose a voluntary tax on their industry. The purpose of this tax was for the federal government to have money to purchase and maintain recreational lands, primarily for hunting and fishing. No other outdoor sport pays FET. That tax amounts to 10% on handguns and 11% on long guns and ammunition, but unlike the tax on alcohol and tobacco, paying it is voluntary on the part of the people in the firearms and ammunition industry.
Excise tax on guns and ammunition is NOT a fiduciary tax. I should mention; if a firearm or ammunition manufacturer represents that he is a tax collector by publishing the amount of tax he is collecting, then he has subjected himself to the fiduciary laws. He is personally libel for turning the money he collects over to the Federal Gov’t as a tax collector for the government. Otherwise, if he doesn’t say that he is a tax collector and the money he collects wasn’t paid then the government would have to write it off as a loss.
Until this point the ATF was a tax collection agency under the Dept. of Treasury for firearms and ammunition. It was not a police agency although in this capacity as a tax collection agency they are involved somewhat in police duties. To accomplish their mission they require the industry to keep records of the serial numbers on firearms, but most firearms manufacturers were keeping them on their own anyway. As America was becoming more and more of a Police State, like many of the other agencies and bureaus, the ATF was transferred to the Department of Justice in the 80’s. Explosives were added to their work in the 90’s.
The ATF is now part of Bush’s Homeland Insecurity bureaucracy. Where they are doing things now far removed from their original mission. They are a police agency – like America needs another one. The tax collecting part has been moved to the IRS but the same rules apply. Unless a firearms and or ammunition manufacturer knows this the IRS might treat a tax problem as a regular fiduciary tax with all the penalties we know for tax problems.