Senators Introduce Capitol Construction Fund Reforms for Fishermen

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Patty Murray, D-Wash.,  Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., today introduced bipartisan legislation to allow commercial fisherman – in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and nationwide – to use their Capital Construction Fund (CCF) savings without incurring significant tax penalties.

“Millions of dollars have been invested wisely through the Capital Construction Fund to make our nation’s fishery fleet more robust,” said Murkowski.  “This bill creates an added layer of flexibility in the fund where we allow fisherman who are trying to retire a one-time opportunity to pull their funds out as they chart their course to the next phase of their life.  With Alaska’s fisherman and fisheries contributing half the nation’s seafood, it’s important to allow them to retire without an unnecessary expense after giving their time and energy to the industry.”

“The CCF has been an important tool for Alaska's fishermen but it needs to respond to changes we’ve seen in our fisheries,” said Begich. “This bill will keep the CCF intact but also empower our fishermen with a one-time opportunity to put these otherwise stranded funds to better use without a penalty. With literally millions of trapped funds in these accounts, this legislation could help our fishermen start a small business, support their families, and put the money back into the economy. ”   

“CCF has been an important part of strengthening the U.S. fishing fleet,” Wyden said. “But the rapid changes in the fishing industry have left this program outdated, and left money sitting idle in CCF accounts that could be better used to start a new business or help ensure a secure retirement. This legislation will allow fishermen to withdraw that money so that it can be better used elsewhere.”

“This bipartisan, commonsense bill will improve the CCF program to ensure that we don’t penalize fishermen just when they’re preparing to retire,” said Murray.  “The current CCF program doesn’t reflect the modern fishing industry and forces fishermen to make unnecessary purchases simply to avoid tax penalties.”

“This program has been an important tool used by Washington fishermen to revamp their fleets and create jobs,” said Cantwell. “Now it’s time for us to modernize this fund to reflect the current needs of our fishing industry. This bipartisan bill will give hundreds of Washington fishermen the financial flexibility to grow their businesses or plan for retirement.”

“Oregon’s fishermen work hard to keep their businesses going and put away money for the future,” said Merkley. “Updating this program so that it works better is the right thing to do.”

The legislation would allow a one-time withdrawal of CCF savings without incurring significant tax penalties. The CCF was created in 1976 under a Merchant Marine Act to help fisherman to acquire fishing vessels or improve a current vessel. The CCF program allows fishing vessel owners to defer taxable income by making contributions to a National Marine Fisheries Service-approved account and eventually use the accumulated funds for purchasing or improving fishing vessels. Withdrawals from the fund for any other reason are discouraged through significant tax penalties.

At the end of last year, there were 1,878 CCF accounts totaling nearly $258 million.

The CCF program would remain intact for fishermen who remain in the industry and want to use the tax benefits to upgrade their fishing vessels.

The following table provides status of Capital Construction Fund accounts by State of the accountholder residence (not necessarily the state in which the revenue is generated by fishing), as of December 31, 2012. Where asterisks appear in the cell, too few accounts were present to avoid revealing personally identifiable information through the account balances. These accounts are summed at the bottom of the table, and that amount is contained in the table total.

Additional*              14                       $1,862,741

*These accounts and balances are contained above.