Most Americans believe taxes are much too high. This week, they shelled out billions to the federal government in the form of income taxes. Over the next few weeks, they’ll shell out billions more to most state governments, as well. And of course, we spend billions on levies on sales and various goods and services we need for our daily lives.
But, we often forget about those little taxes that government sneaks in when we’re not looking. Some of them are zany; others are meant to fund special interests or discourage behavior that politicians might find objectionable.
Freedom Partners put together a list of the most ridiculous taxes hidden in states across America, and Opportunity Lives has whittled that down to the top 10 craziest. (Head on over to Freedom Partners for the full roster.)
In no particular order, here’s a reminder of what your politicians are penalizing you for:
1. Buying fruit in a vending machine
In California, you’ll shell out an additional 33 percent tax on fruit you buy from vending machines (which invites the question: Who trusts vending machine produce, anyway?), but not on fruit you’d buy in a grocery store.
2. Buying marshmallows
Ready to snuggle up next to the fire for some good old-fashioned s’mores? Not so fast, says Indiana state government. Marshmallows are candy, so they’re taxed at a higher rate than regular goods. If you want to skip the whole melting part (and all of the fun), head to the baking aisle and grab a can of marshmallow cream, which doesn’t carry an additional tax.
3. Dialing 911 if you have a prepaid phone
My home state of Louisiana is known for its crazy politics, but this one is a doozy. Prepaid cell phone vendors must tack on a 2 percent tax to the sale of their devices to cover a 911 surcharge. Make sure your tax is paid up, or Fifi the Cat is going to stay in the tree for a bit longer.
4. Being unable to find a spouse
Better make it official, fellas. In Missouri, bachelors aged 21 to 50 must pay an extra $1 every year in state income taxes.
5. Winning at the Bingo hall
Ah, Bingo: a place where both church ladies and degenerates can find harmony. Oh, and the government of New Mexico, which taxes the gross receipts of any game of chance, including bingo and raffles.
6. Getting your bagel sliced
If you’d like your Asiago bagel sliced, you better be ready to pay the state of New York an 8-cent tax. Either that, or you can just bite into it like a Neanderthal.
7. Purchasing a belt buckle
Any cowboy needs a belt buckle, and in Texas, they need to tax you for it. In the Lone Star State, clothing isn’t subject to a levy. Remarkably, the state doesn’t consider buckles to be clothing. My grandfather, buckle-sporting Texan Charlie Carmichael, is hardest hit.
8. Buying a sheep
Baaaaaaad news for sheep farmers in Virginia (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). There’s a 50-cent excise tax on every lamb or sheep sold in the state. Come to think of it, this is a pretty clever move by the powerful lamb lobby, trying to stay off your Easter tables.
9. Getting inked
I guess Arkansas is trying to teach its citizenry a lesson by imposing a 6 percent tax on tattoo artistry. Think before you ink. Your mom will thank you, too.
10. Using your natural resources responsibly
Ah, Alaska: home of beautiful terrain, the Palins, and abundant natural resources responsibly harnessed by domestic energy producers. Alaska rewards the energy generators of economic growth by slapping a 35 percent tax — you read that right, 35 percent — on oil and gas produced in the state.
Bonus: Operating a roller coaster
Idaho is one of the most under-appreciated states in America. Apparently, the state government wants to punish its people for that fact by making amusement parks more expensive to visit. Of the many taxes set aside just for fairs and carnivals, owners or operators of amusement devices must place a $42 decal on each machine in a visible spot. A valid decal must have the name and business address of the owner or operator typed or printed on the face of the decal. Even if you purchase a machine later in the year, you must also buy a decal and pay the full-year fee. Separate decals are necessary for each monitor of a multi-player game.
Next time you’re in Idaho playing skee-ball, try also playing citizen cop with your carnival workers by checking the validity of their decals. I’m sure they’ll love that.
Ellen Carmichael is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow her on Twitter @ellencarmichael.