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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Special Taxes - some seem to be based on mood swings

Taxes are difficult to get rid of. Do you remember when there were special fees for calling long distance? It was a 3% excise tax slapped onto everyone's phone bill. This tax originated in 1898 as a way to pay for the Spanish American War, and at the time, it was seen as a tax on the wealthy. It took over 100 years to get the tax repealed.  This tax was finally removed in 2006.   

Taxes sometimes are initiated to change behavior.  In 1820, Missouri initiated a $1 bachelor tax on unmarried men between the ages of 21-50 as a means of encouraging population growth and men rushed to get married before the tax took affect.

Some taxes are not meant to change behavior, but they do. In the UK, there was a window tax. People paid the tax based on the number of windows in their home and the result was a lot of boarded up windows.

Some taxes seem like they are designed for punishment.  For example, Peter the Great taxed men with beards. In 2005, Arkansas initiated a 6% tax on nose rings, tattoos, and body piercing. In Germany, there is a tax to be a Catholic and requires excommunication if you want to stop paying the tax. 

In Maine there is a special tax to grow, purchase, or sell blueberries. This seems to say the Blueberry Association in Maine either didn't pay enough to their lobbyist to wine and dine the Legislature, or someone with power just doesn't care much for blueberries. (I can understand someone doing this for broccoli or brussell sprouts, but blueberries?  Come on!)

You can start to appreciate why our forefathers declared "no taxation without representation." We know they knew about a tea tax and they probably all knew how Nero taxed urine. And let us not forget about the British chimney tax, which eventually led to the window tax (because it was easier to count windows than chimneys).

Now days we are very familiar with special taxes.  They are almost like a scrapbook of the countries mood swings over the years.