The recession brought us all kinds of great deals – from cheap homes to lobster at lunchmeat prices – but it also brought a fresh wave of ridiculous taxes and fees.
While you were rummaging around the bargain bins, government bean counters were peeping in your pockets to see how they could fill their budget gaps with your money.
From candy to cows and strippers to sparklers – they want to charge you extra for it.
So, we decided to take a look at the 12 wackiest taxes ever.
-SLICED BAGEL TAX
Ah, morning. A time to pick up a fresh bagel with cream cheese – and your first tax of the day.
New York, a leader in wacky taxes, said it plans to enforce a weird tax law that requires delis and other vendors to impose an extra tax on sliced bagels or bagels consumed in stores. (If you buy a whole bagel and slice it at home, it doesn’t count.)
Apparently, that’s because a sliced bagel is considered a “prepared food,” and therefore subject to an 8.875-percent tax.
You know they heard that collective “Fughedaboudit!” all the way up in Albany.
OK, who’s next on the tax hit list? Ah, yes. The children.
Several states, including Illinois, Washington and Colorado, now have a tax on candy.
The sticky part, apparently, has been defining “candy”: Lawmakers in Washington have narrowed it down to any product comprised of sugar or other sweetener, along with fruits, nuts and other flavorings.
However, in order to not discriminate against the blueberry muffin or banana nut bread, they added the modifier that if it has flour, it is not candy.
So guess what? That means a Kit Kat is not candy.
Here’s a tax that did the unthinkable: It brought John McCain and Snooki from the Jersey Shore together.
The tanning tax, a provision in the heath-care reform bill, charges an extra 10 percent on people who use indoor tanning beds, like the cast of the Jersey Shore, where the mantra is GTL (gym, tanning, laundry).
After Snooki publicly expressed her outrage over how unfair the tax was, McCain apparently tweeted her back (oh, snap!) “U R right. I would never tax your tanning bed!”
Is it possible McCain’s considering Snooki as a running mate in 2012?!
This next tax is … bow chica bow wow … controversial!
Texas implemented a “pole tax,” charging patrons $5 on to enter a strip club. The state collected over $13 million (that’s a lotta one-dollar bills!) from the tax, though it was later ruled unconstitutional. A similar tax has been proposed in New York and Utah.
On Long Island, several strippers with hearts of gold staged a rally in favor of the tax, as the proceeds would go toward education. “We just want to give back to our communities,” one stripper was quoted as saying.
Woo hoo! Yeeeeeow! * whistle * whistle * whistle *
If you dial 9-1-1, that’s a free call. You know why? Because you’ve already paid for it!
In fact, you may have paid for it twice. The federal government charges a 911 tax on all phone bills but some states also charge a 911 tax.
The funds are supposed to go toward upgrading and maintaining emergency phone systems and services but at least 13 states, including Hawaii, New York and Wisconsin have been cited for dumping their 911 revenues into the general pot to cover overspending problems.
Hmmm. Who do you call to report that?!
-COW FLATULANCE TAX
Admittedly, this sounds like something out of the Ministry of Silly Taxes, a bureau run by 12-year old boys, but cow taxes have actually been proposed all over the world – including in the U.S. as part of the Clean Air Act.
Beans may be the most famous gastrointestinal menace but for cows, grass is the “musical fruit.”
Cows emit so many greenhouse gasses from their flatulence, burps and manure that the UN has dubbed them a bigger threat to the environment than cars .
So far, farmers have fought off the taxes and are mulling other options to offset the emissions – like converting methane gas from cow manure into electricity.
Now that’s recycling.
-THE MIX-TAPE TAX
Several countries, including the U.S., Canada and much of Europe, now charge a tax on blank CDs, DVDs and in some cases the recording equipment itself, to protect copyrights and royalty agreements.
It’s been called the “you must be a criminal” tax because it assumes that when you buy a blank CD, you’re going to do something illegal with it.
If that doesn’t put a damper on your download, check this out: There’s been talk of extending the copyright tax to iPods.
Well, shuffle my playlist. What’ll they think of taxing next?!
-DRUG DEALER TAX
Who says “crime doesn’t pay”?
In more than 20 states, there’s a tax on the sale of illegal drugs and it pays (the government) quite well.
Of course, few dealers actually pay this tax, dubbed the “crack tax,” in advance. But it’s proven a lucrative source of revenue as states can collect it after the individual has been arrested – plus a late fee.
So, do you use a W-2? Which box would you check for “drug money”?!
If you notice an unusually large number of filled-in windows in the U.K., here’s why: In the 17th and 18th centuries, they used to tax people based on the number of windows they had.
There was an income tax but when the people protested having to disclose such personal information as income, the government simply said: Fine. We’ll tax you by the window, then. To which the people replied: Fine, we’ll fill in the windows then!
Of course, you might perish in a fire, but hey, you showed them, right?
They had an interesting technique in Charlotte Squre in Scotland: They actually painted the windows black with white grid lines. You can still see these windows, known as “Pitt’s pictures” or “blind windows” today.
Maryland earned its place in the toilet humor hall of fame in 2005, when it started charging residents a tax for using public sewage systems to raise money to upgrade the systems.
The “flush tax” as it quickly became known “turned everyone’s toilets into pay toilets,” The website “Homeland Stupidity” quipped.
Thousands of complaints about the tax have flooded county phone lines, with many threatening not to pay what they deem a ridiculous tax.
You know what they say: You mess with No. 1, you get No. 2!
-THE JOCK TAX
Sure, athletes and rock stars live the life, sleeping in a different city each night – but they pay for it.
Many states now charge them a tax for earning money in a state other than their own.
The “jock tax,” as it’s now known, can be traced back to Michael Jordan: After the Bulls beat the Lakers in a 1991 championship game, California decided it wanted a piece of Jordan’s pie. Illinois fired back with its own tax, dubbed “Jordan’s Revenge.”
Today, it’s not uncommon for a pro athlete to have to pay taxes in more than 10 states – and to hire multiple accountants to sort through it all.
To date, the taxes have been selectively enforced – of course, on some of the highest earners. But let the business traveler beware: Technically, you could get slapped with a jock tax, too!
Some states, like Alabama and Texas, tax fireworks but only in West Virginia do they call out sparklers, those crackling sticks that make children giggle, for a special tax.
West Virginia charges retailers a 6 percent tax on " sparklers and novelties,” even though fireworks aren’t technically legal there.
And the tax payers’ red glare!
The levies bursting in air …
Gave proof through the night …
That the tax man was still there
Oh say does tha-at star-spangled lawmaker ye-et wa-ave …
O’er the land of the free and the home of the taxed!
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