January 8, 2015 by Lisa Brammer
Taxes have been around since the dawn of civilization. They were first implemented over 4500 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia in the form of livestock. Since then there have been drastic changes to how we pay taxes, but taxes themselves prevail.
Taxation, usually implemented to raise additional income or promote social consciousness, has not lacked creativity. Throughout history many odd or strange taxes have been found. For example, Roman emperor, Vespasian, imposed a Urine Tax. Back in the day (around 70 AD) urine was collected from public urinals and sold to launderers to clean and whiten woolen items (think ammonia). It was also used for tanning hides. Buyers of the urine paid the tax. Even then this tax was considered odd—-it brought about the Latin phrase Pecunia non olet which translates to money does not stink.
We may not have a urine tax, but here in the United States there are some strange and weird taxes you may not be familiar with. Here are five of my favorite.
1. New York’s Bagel Tax In New York, the sale of whole bagels isn’t subject to sales tax, but if you want it sliced, with a “schmear,” or if you just want to eat it there, New York imposes an 8 cents tax to them. The only bagels that are exempt from this tax are ones that remain intact and are eaten off the premises.
2. Illinois’ Candy Tax All candies are subject to an extra tax unless they contain flour or require refrigeration. Therefore, the state of Illinois does not consider a Kit Kat bar a candy. When purchased, it is taxed as a regular food item, not as a higher taxed candy.
3. Alabama’s Playing Card Tax Anyone who buys or sells a deck of cards in the state of Alabama is taxed. Buyers spend an extra 10 cents per deck and sellers are taxed an additional $1-3 per year for a license to sell them. This tax only applies to decks of 54 cards or fewer so Uno fans can rejoice. The same cannot be said for Old Maid or Go-Fish enthusiasts since those decks each contain 52 cards.
4. California’s Vending Machine Fruit Tax For those who want to eat healthy, fresh fruit is exempt from sales tax in the state of California. That is unless it’s purchased from a vending machine then it’s taxed at a whopping 33 percent. I cannot even imagine the thought process behind that one (It would probably be cheaper to just buy that Kit Kat bar, wait, wrong state).
This last one isn’t a tax. It’s actually a tax exemption, but I thought it was worth mentioning. It’s my personal favorite.
5. New Mexico’s Income Tax Exemption for Centenarians The income of people 100 years old or older is exempt from state income tax if they cannot be claimed as a dependent by someone else. I guess they feel that after 100 years you’ve paid enough in income taxes. To qualify, you must be 100 years or older by the end of the tax year for which you claim the exemption.
Doesn’t that last one make you want to consider retiring down in New Mexico? I know I’m going to go check it out.
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