Most people are familiar with common taxes: income taxes, sales taxes, and additional taxes on products like cigarettes and gasoline. But what you may not know is that there are many peculiar taxes around the world. Here are a few from America you may never have known you paid.
A tax on illegal drugs
That may sound crazy, but there are 23 states with taxes on illegal drugs. In Tennessee, law abiding citizens have 48 hours after the purchase of any illegal drug—including “moonshine”—to report to the Department of Revenue and pay your tax. Taxpayers receive stamps to affix to their…um…”product.” The stamps serve as evidence that the tax was paid. While it may sound like a scheme to bust drug users, no identifying information is collected and state employees are forbidden by law from turning you over to the authorities. North Carolina has had a similar law for years, but very few have voluntarily complied with the law. (Those that have are thought to be stamp collectors.) On the other hand, thousands of residents arrested for possession were taxed after the fact.
A tax on nudity
This isn’t a tax on all nudity, just commercial kinds. A Utah tax of ten percent is imposed on any establishment where nude or partially nude individuals provide services of any sort, such as waiting tables or dancing. The ten percent tax is levied on admission fees, drink and food sales, and merchandise. The tax is not expected to raise much revenue, as there are only a few establishments in the state subjected to the tax.
Entertainers paying income taxes for every show
If you’ve ever worked in multiple states during the same tax year, you may know that paying multiple income taxes can be tricky. Some states charge income taxes on all income earned in the state, while others charge taxes on all their residents regardless of where the income is earned. This tax is a little bit different.
It all started when the 1991 Chicago Bulls beat the LA Lakers in the playoffs. California responded with a tax on athletes from Chicago. (Chicago responded similarly.) Although such taxes don’t appear across the board, they do appear in most states that boast a professional sports team. Usually, the taxes apply to any sort of performer or entertainer, such as musicians or comedians.
Decks of cards
That’s right, at least in the state of Alabama. For whatever reason, the state levies a 10 cent tax on decks of cards containing 54 or fewer cards. So, if you’re concerned about paying extra tax on a game of UNO, there’s no need to worry.
A tax on flush toilets
Forced with serious costs to maintain a pollution free Chesapeake Bay, the state of Maryland began adding $2.50 to the monthly sewer bills of residents who use treatment systems. Septic system users pay an annual charge of $30, even though they are believed to add very little to the pollutants in the bay.
That’s just a sample of some of the odd taxes you’ll find on the books across the country. Maine charges a 1.5 penny tax per pound of blueberries. Chicago charges a nine percent tax on fountain sodas, but only three percent on bottled or canned soda. Whether or not these taxes achieve the ends they were designed for, their names are at least good for a laugh.
Published or updated June 7, 2012.