(NEW YORK) — If you take the tax codes of the 50 states and apply a magnifying glass, you’ll find that here and there, hidden amongst the small print, are specimens that many would consider outrageous.
Take for example, a tax on fur, nudity or bagels (if sliced, but not if intact).
New tax marvels are being born daily. New York tax expert Barbara Weltman, publisher of Big Ideas for Small Business, points to one new one, imposed by Mississippi on salt produced from that state’s lands or waters.
“Unique, weird taxes are states’ creative ways to increase revenue in a way consistent with their population and products,” she says. Some oddities arise from the circumstances of the moment: The feds, for example, have begun taxing arrows and other “archery products” — an innovation she suspects has arisen in light of the popularity of The Hunger Games.
Here are some of the wildest taxes levied by the 50 states — some supplied by Weltman, some coaxed from states’ websites and others found by eFile, GoBanking, TurboTax/Intuit and the Corporate Tax Network:
Blueberries: Maine produces all but one percent of the wild blueberries sold nationally and taxes them every which way: Anyone growing, handling, processing, selling or purchasing blueberries pays a tax of a penny-and-a-half per pound.
Fur: Minnesota imposes a tax of 6.5 percent on the sale of fur apparel.
Nudity: Any business in Utah employing “nude or partially nude” workers must pay a tax of 10 percent on services sold to patrons.
Tattoos: Arkansas doesn’t just tax tattoos (six percent of sales); the Natural State applies the same tax to body piercings and electrolysis.
Playing Cards: In Alabama, your purchase of a deck of playing cards will be subject to a tax of 10 cents per pack.
Candy, Sodas: Illinois applies to candy a surcharge of five percent over and above its 1.25 percent sales tax on food. But candy isn’t candy — at least not for tax purposes — if it contains flour. Malted milk balls thus would be exempt. In Chicago, a soda served from a soda fountain is taxed nine percent; the same soda drunk from a bottle or a can is taxed 3 percent.
Litigation: New York taxes litigation; any New Yorker involved in criminal or civil proceedings pays a flat $25.
Bagels, Pets: In Durham, N.C., residents who own a cat or dog must pay tax, since the state considers pets to be personal property no different from, say, a TV or stereo. The tax on spayed or neutered pets is $10, but on animals intact, it is $75. This is the reverse of New York’s bagel tax, which applies an eight cent charge to altered bagels (ones sliced and schmeered) but not to ones uncut.
Balloon Rides: Kansas wisely distinguishes between tethered balloons and balloons set free. The latter, says efile.com, “are considered a legitimate form of air transportation.” Thus rides in the former are taxed as amusements, rides in the latter are not.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Parija Kavilanz, CNN
Paul R. La Monica, CNN
Jackie Wattles, CNN
Patrick Ary, WAAY