State tax codes are packed with weird tax laws that subject consumers and businesses to taxes on everything from hot air balloon rides to sliced bagels. Now taxpayers in Washington state are protesting one such law through the healing power of dance.
The tax law in question was put on the books in the 1960s, and says that any business that offers customers the "opportunity" to dance will be subject to a tax. According to ABC News, many Washington businesses complain of arbitrary enforcement of the statute. The state legislature is considering a repeal.
So on Monday, taxpayers descended on the state Capitol in Olympia, Wash., to protest the law with various dance moves. ABC News reports that the flamenco, salsa, tango and conga line all made appearances during the spirited protest.
But Washington's is hardly the only strange tax law on the books: Check out the slide show below for some truly odd revenue-generating statutes:
10 Weird Tax Laws
Dancers Protest Washington 'Dance Tax'
The Centennial State eliminated the tax exemption for non-essential food items and packaging that can come with your food or beverage purchased at your local eatery or convenience store. Sales and purchases of nonessential food items and packaging provided with purchased food and beverage items are taxable at the state sales and use tax rate of 2.9%.
So while cups are considered essential, cup lids are not and, hence, are taxable. French fry sleeves are not taxable but expect to pay sales tax on napkins and towelettes.
When Halloween comes around, Indiana residents may be better off buying a pre-made costume. Indiana's Department of Revenue decided that sales tax could be applied to labor and design of custom-made costumes due to existing law about "retail unitary transactions." In other words, a combined sale of tangible personal property and services becomes taxable when the services are performed before the transfer of the property.
Under federal statutes, state or local governments can't taxes airlines and airport users. But in Kansas, taxes can be imposed on "any place providing amusement, entertainment or recreation services." The state's Department of Revenue concluded that the sales tax could be applied to tethered hot air balloon rides only.
A sweet tooth in the Bluegrass State can get expensive. Candy that does not contain flour faces a sales tax, while candy with flour is exempt. Hence, residents hankering for chocolate-covered almonds will pay a little more than those buying chocolate covered pretzels.
After an uproar about how non-residents could buy boats and repair parts tax-free if they moved their boats out of state within 30 days of purchase and kept them out, Augusta lawmakers amended the law.
Non-residents have to pay 40% of the sales tax if they brought their boats back into the state or kept them in Maine for more than 30 days. Residents, however, remain out of luck: they must pay the full sales tax on the sticker price of the boat and repair parts.
For many families, a haunted house visit during Halloween is a tradition. But beware: The Empire State requires visitors to pay a sales tax in order to be spooked.
Ask a New Yorker what are the best bagels in the city and you'll get some impassioned answers. Just be careful where you eat it. Once a bagel shop staff slices that bagel, it's considered prepared food even if you don't ask for a schmear of cream cheese and is subject to sales tax. As a result, bagel lovers can end up paying some 8-to 9-cents extra per bagel.
Fashionable Texans are paying more for certain items of clothing these days. Buy a belt and it's tax-free. But shop for a belt buckle and expect to pay a sales tax. Cowboy boots and hiking boots are exempt, but rubber boots and climbing boots are taxable.
Before October 2009, ice cream cakes were taxable only when sold for consumption at the store or ice cream shop. Once the state became a member of Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, ice cream cakes and bars in which the retailer mixes ice cream and at least one other food item together becomes "prepared food" and is taxed. Yet, if it is made by someone other than the retailer, it's not taxable unless it is considered a prepared food because, for example, it came with utensils or napkins.
In the 1960s Washington added a retail sales tax that would be charged at any business that offers customers the "opportunity" to dance. According to ABC News, many Washington businesses complain of arbitrary enforcement of the statute. The state legislature is considering a repeal.
Proponents of the repeal say enforcement targets medium-sized venues or taverns, and not places like sports stadiums that often host concerts where people dance. Recently, Century Ballroom in Seattle and was hit with $250,000 bill on back taxes for not adhering to the law.