A Dozen Dumb Taxes


Being rewarded for helping bring world peace or writing a great novel can cost you. The “Nobel prize” tax–in reality it also applies to other prizes such as the Pulitzer–is a tax levied against the money a prizewinner receives. Unless, that is, he or she chooses to give it all to charity.

Often referred to as the “crack tax,” this tax targets possession of illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. Over 20 states currently have such taxes on the books. When you pay the tax in Tennessee, you even receive stamps to attach to your illegal substances as proof of payment. And, not to worry, you don’t have to identify yourself in order to pay the tax. Still, do people voluntarily pay the tax, thus admitting to possession? It appears not often, but Tennessee did collect $1.8 million from the tax in 2006; however much of that came from confiscated drugs on which, alas, taxes hadn’t been paid.

Tsar Peter I was one of history’s great tax enthusiasts. His taste in taxes was fairly eccentric, and he is know to have taxed everything from beehives to beards. In an effort to regulate his countrymen’s appearance, Peter the Great introduced a special tax on the latter item in 1705. With the exception of the clergy, anyone with a beard was required to pay for the right to sport facial hair.

If you are the type of person who infinitely prefers fountain soda to can soda, you may want to think again before moving to the Windy City. Chicago taxes can soda at 3%, but fountain soda at three times that amount, or 9%.

It seems even jocks get picked on by the IRS. 20 of the 24 states with a pro sports team require athletes to pay state income tax for each game they play there. The tax can be traced to the 1991 NBA Finals when the Chicago Bulls beat the LA Lakers, only to receive tax bills from California for the three games the team played there. While the tax applies to other kind of performers who do business in multiple states, it seems that athletes, with their high visibility and well-documented schedules, are the easiest to target come tax time.

The Roman emperor Nero levied a tax on the collection of urine in the 1st century (his successor, Vespasian, was also a fan of the tax, and applied it to all public toilets.) At least after collecting the urine from public latrines the Romans put it to good use–launderers, for example, apparently found it useful as a source of ammonia for whitening togas.

Anyone looking to decorate their body with their loved one’s name or finally get that eyebrow ring they’ve always dreamed of may not want to do so in Arkansas, where tattoos and body piercings are subject to an additional 6% state sales tax.

Celebrating Fourth of July in West Virginia may lose some of its glory when you realize that the state imposes a special tax on businesses selling sparklers and other ‘novelties.’ That comes in addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax, and so it may be better to head out of state to buy those trick noisemakers.

Salt taxes have appeared in various nations over the course of history, yet rarely have they been well received by those made to pay them. The French, the Chinese and the British all implemented them at some point. In 1930, Gandhi led an anti-salt tax protest known as the Dandi March, which helped build support for the move towards Indian independence.

It’s not clear why the state of Maine has singled out the blueberry, but be warned that if you want blueberries from there you will be paying a penny-and-a-half per pound tax, which the states imposes on anyone who grows, sells or purchases the fruit.

Also known as the “glass tax,” it was introduced by William Pitt the Younger in eighteenth century England. Any property that had more than six windows was hit with the tax. Not surprisingly, many windows were bricked-over as a result.

Wear less, pay more. At least that’s the case in Utah, which imposes a 10% tax on any sexually explicit business where someone appears nude or partially nude. The tax covers everything from merchandise to food.



About benvitalis

math grad - Interest: Number theory
This entry was posted in Economics, Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s