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Pete & Doug discuss NTUF's "10 Most Mind-Boggling Taxes" list with author Austin Peters, NTU VP Brandon Arnold stops by to talk about his Washington Times op-ed advising the GOP to protect spending caps, and the Outrage of the Week!
Today’s Taxpayer News!
U.S. Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) penned this op-ed for the Colorado Springs-Gazette, remarking on recent efforts by the Colorado Legislature to grow spending and expand the size of government.
President Obama is pushing for a new “fee” on cell phone users through the Federal Communications Commission. The fee (which supposedly would start around $5 per year) would be used to expand and improve Internet connections in America’s public schools.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today’s Taxpayer News!
The Washington Times published this exposé earlier this week, bringing to light the Obama administration’s practice of using taxpayer dollars to fund campaign emails. NTU’s Pete Sepp comments on the ethics and legality of the issue.
The president once again hits the road next week, embarking on his first bus tour of his second term next week, in the hopes of garnering support for his new “middle-class” agenda. As NTUF reported in a recent study, Obama is on track to become one of the most traveled presidents in American history.
If you lived abroad, would piles of tax paperwork cause you to renounce your citizenship? NTU’s Pete Sepp weighs in, pointing out that high taxes and an excessively complex code could cause such a trend.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Is there anything more confounding than someone who doesn’t think we are over taxed? While it may initially seem impossible for an individual to be so oblivious, the world does not have tax ‘price tags’ posted on everything to remind you.
Demonstrating the breakdown of who pays the burden of income taxes, for example, is clearly important – yet, sometimes it’s better to focus on the smaller, widespread, tax burdens we all face. After all, nobody is able to avoid the burden of government.
To that aim, we put together this collection of the “Top 10 Most Mind-Boggling Taxes,” perhaps your city or state has made the list!
10. Fountain Soda (Chicago)
In Chicago there is big difference if you are drinking out of a can or a fountain; if it’s the former, the additional tax is 3 percent while the latter is taxed at 9 percent. Around for over a decade, this tax aims to curb obesity by making the usually larger fountain sodas more expensive to purchase.
9. Blueberries (Maine)
Maine produces 99 percent of the blueberries picked wildly in the nation. They also slap a one-and-a-half cent tax per pound on anyone growing, handling, processing, selling or purchasing blueberries. For what it’s worth, this tax is one of the oldest on our list: blueberry harvesters have been paying this tax since 1945.
8. Tan Tax (United States)
This infamous piece of “Obamacare” is a 10 percent federal tax on tanning bed services. Arguably attempting to discourage the using of these bed services, the tax does not apply to spray on services. For those who were hoping the “temporary” tax would be removed, the tax was made permanent in 2010.
7. Tattoos (Arkansas)
While this tax seems like it should be a relic of a different era, Arkansas implemented this 6 percent tax on permanent body art in 2005. If this incentivizes you to opt for that piercing you have been eyeing instead, you’re out of luck there too; body piercings and electrolysis are included .
6. A New Kind of Death Tax (Seattle)
Starting in 2011, it began to cost more for handling a death in Seattle. In addition to any estate tax you may face, it costs $50.00 to report a death to the Medical Examiner’s Office. If you don’t pay up, you won’t receive the necessary paper work for burial or cremation.
5. “Bagel” Tax (New York)
Was that bagel you’re eating sliced when you received it? If so, New York considers it a prepared food and adds an eight-cent tax to the bill. On the books for quite a while, New York took the step to start enforcing the tax in 2010, enraging New Yorkers and bagel store owners in particular. While eight pennies may not seem like a huge increase, one store owner is reporting he owes thousands of dollars in back taxes as a result!
4. Tethered Hot Air Balloon Rides (Kansas)
Going hot air balloon riding in Kansas? Well, if you’re scared to be blown away to OZ and opt to have your balloon tethered to the ground, then you are subject to local amusement park ride taxes. However, if you take a ride on the wild side and your hot air balloon ride is determined to be “untethered, piloted, and travels for some distance downwind of the launching point”, then you are considered to be partaking in air commerce and consequently your ride not subject to the tax.
3. Playing Card Tax (Alabama)
Beginning in 2004, Alabama imposes a 10-cent tax on each deck of cards that contains up to 54 cards. In addition, if you wish to sell a deck of cards, make sure you purchase your playing card privilege license before you do so.
2. “Luxury” Coffee Lids (Colorado)
In March 2010 Colorado eliminated a tax protection for “non-essential” packaging for food and drinks bought at restaurants and convenience stores. The move led to several interesting classifications including coffee cups being deemed essential while coffee lids were determined to not be. As a consequence, coffee shops are subject to (and, therefore, coffee drinkers must pay) a 2.9 percent luxury item tax on sleeves and lids.
1. The Non-Governmental “Jock Tax” (Tennessee)
This $2,500 per-game tax (max 3 games) tops the list despite not being quite as obviously strange as the other taxes. That’s because despite many states having so-called “jock taxes,” this is the only tax on the list where the money does not even go to the government – rather it heads to stadium owners who likely already benefitted from taxpayer-backed deals and own the team. If you thought government getting one more cent of your money was frustrating, this odd tax situation manages to add insult to injury.
This list should settle it once and for all, if you make it or do it, they will tax it.
In early June the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision allowing a Constitutional challenge to a New Deal agriculture law go forward. The Washington Post tells the story of embattled raisin farmer, Marvin Horne, who is fighting for the right to keep what he grows:
Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.
His crime? Horne defied one of the strangest arms of the federal bureaucracy — a farm program created to solve a problem during the Truman administration, and never turned off.
He said no to the national raisin reserve.
The whole article is well worth your read.
What could compel growers to hand over the goods they have produced for little or no compensation?
The Raisin Marketing Order.
One of 27 Marketing Orders enshrined in the Agricultural Marketing Agreement of 1937, this Depression-era law created a government-sponsored cartel that authorizes the “Raisin Administrative Committee” to seize a portion of the annual raisin crop in order to collectively influence supply, demand, and ultimately price. The Post goes on to offer a sanitized explanation:
It works like this: In a given year, the government may decide that farmers are growing more raisins than Americans will want to eat. That would cause supply to outstrip demand. Raisin prices would drop. And raisin farmers might go out of business.
To prevent that, the government does something drastic. It takes away a percentage of every farmer’s raisins. Often, without paying for them.
These seized raisins are put into a government-controlled “reserve” and kept off U.S. markets. In theory, that lowers the available supply of raisins and thereby increases the price for farmers’ raisin crops. Or, at least, the part of their crops that the government didn’t just take.
Where do those raisins go? The Raisin Administrative Committee stores them until such a time as it deems it permissible to let more raisins go on the market. Some are distributed for free to the School Lunch and other government programs, others are auctioned off. Profits are used to pay for storage and “raisin promotion.” Farmers, who have been forced to turn over up to 47 percent of their crop in the past, get nothing or next to nothing in return. Nothing, that is, except the “privilege” to pursue their chosen vocation.
Adding insult to injury, because the Raisin Administrative Committee is enforced by the Department of Agriculture, ultimately taxpayers are paying for a program that increases prices for consumers and robs farmers.
Raisins are only one of many products that must adhere to the government’s price-fixing schemes. Marketing Orders are also in place for almonds, apricots, avocados, cherries, citrus fruits, cranberries, dates, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwifruit, nectarines, olives, onions, peaches, pears, pistachios, plums, potatoes, spearmint oil, tomatoes, and walnuts. And, lest we soon forget, dairy has its very own onerous marketing order that restricts supply and hikes prices for consumers.
While Mr. Horne’s case still has a long way to go as it once again wends its way through the lower courts, in the eyes of most taxpayers the outdated Marketing Orders should be a clear violation of the Takings Clause (the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights). Rather than wait for the courts to unravel the red tape, Representative Trey Radel (R-FL) has introduced H.R. 2840, the Raisin Farmer Freedom Act, a bill that would exempt raisins from Agricultural Marketing Orders.
This is a good first step for raisin farmers eager to get out from under the oppressive Raisin Marketing Order. However, the bill falls short of what the agriculture industry needs to thrive in the 21st century. Instead of exempting only one crop, Congress should be working hard to dismantle the entire regime of Marketing Orders, a relic of outdated agriculture policies more akin to the U.S.S. R.’s top-down central planning.
The “invisible hand” described by Adam Smith is no less present in agriculture than it is in any other sector of the economy. Simply put, the government doesn’t have and never will have the information necessary to efficiently manage a market from on high. The fact that a “national raisin reserve” exists is proof positive of that fact.
Exempting raisin farmers from Marketing Orders would help Mr. Horne and his friends today. But Congress should go farther and level the playing field by completely eliminating these types of “admission fees” to the marketplace. Doing so would be a boon to both producers and consumers alike.3 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today’s Taxpayer News!
Subscribe to NTU's podcast "Speaking of Taxpayers" via iTunes!
Author of NTUF's new study, "Tobacco Taxes: Problems, Not Solutions, for Taxpayers and Budgets", Diana Oprinescu joins the podcast to talk about her startling findings. An update on the winners of the Milton Friedman Day tax reform contest; and the Outrage of the Week!
In a July 25th meeting of the Progressive Democrats of America Roundtable in Washington, D.C., Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) was discussing fiscal and budgetary shortfalls when he said:
"The bottom line is we're not broke, there's plenty of money, it's just the government doesn't have it."
Though Ellison doesn't appear to be concerned by the ever-increasing debt, many at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) are, as they have repeatedly warned that unless current policies change, budgetary shortfalls will continue to climb over the next decade. "Such high and rising debt," they contend, "would have serious negative consequences," including:
Rep. Ellison has proposed a solution to ensure that the government does recapture some of that money it "doesn't have" at the moment. He introduced H.R. 1579, the Inclusive Prosperity Act of 2013, in order to institute a new tax on certain securities transactions. Ellison contends that this could raise upwards of $300 billion per year.
The Congressman's proposal is a form of transaction tax, which is one of the reform options that NTUF polled our members and associates on during our Milton Friedman Legacy Day event. It was not as popular with the taxpayers we spoke to as the FairTax and Flat Tax, two other options that tap into consumption instead of income.1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
For this year’s Milton Friedman Legacy Day activity, NTU Foundation asked taxpayers across the country what federal tax system they want. At our in-person event in downtown Washington, DC and online at our special voting page, we had over 650 total votes on if the current system should be kept or replaced with a FairTax, Flat Tax, National Transaction Tax, or a Value-Added Tax.
If you are unfamiliar with these tax systems, we had some fancy posters made to show the basic points and contentions associated with each (you can click on each to see the full resolution):
Here are the results broken down by those who attended our physical event and those voting via our survey online:
Put another way, here's an infographic put together by our fantastic Creative Content Manager, Tim Howland:
What do these results mean? Probably a few things:
We need more information and more taxpayers in the network of voting and voicing their preferences. Stay tuned, we here at NTU Foundation are working on another survey to get a more clear idea on what people want out of their tax system.16 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today’s Taxpayer News!
President Obama appeared on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno on Tuesday, marking his tenth appearance on a talk show since becoming president. Unfortunately, as the Washington Times and NTU’s Pete Sepp pointed out, all that entertainment can be expensive for taxpayers.
Officials in Unity, Pennsylvania, are voting tonight on a plan to offer seniors a full rebate on their property taxes. NTU’s Pete Sepp applauded the measure as a step in the right direction, although an across-the-board reduction is generally better for taxpayers.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts