The time of year when many taxpayers log into their tax software program, or receive a call from their tax accountant, and receive a happy surprise: They're getting a tax refund.
Unfortunately, not all surprises are so pleasant. For instance, in March, the independent Tax Foundation published the 2014 edition of its annual Facts & Figures: How Does Your State Compare? tax information booklet. Alongside expected topics, such as rankings of the 50 states by tax burden and taxes paid per capita, was an "Easter egg" surprise of a list of federal excise taxes that you may not be aware you're paying.
10 Federal Taxes You Might Not Realize You're Paying
The federal government levies a 10 percent Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax on sales of semiautomatic pistols and revolvers. This excise tax is paid by the manufacturer, producer or importer of the firearm.
An 11 percent FAET is charged on sales of rifles and shotguns.
Ammunition is assessed an 11 percent excise tax. In 2011, these excise taxes generated $344.3 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the Department of the Interior. In particular, this tax funds the federal Wildlife Restoration Program, which was established by the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 to promote wildlife and habitat conservation projects, projects facilitating public access to wildlife resources, hunter education programs and development and management of shooting ranges.
This same act called for a tax that used to be 12.4 percent of the arrow shaft's value, but about 10 years ago, Congressman Paul Ryan got this tax simplified to a straight 39-cent-per-shaft excise tax. As taxes tend to do, that rate has increased and is currently 48 cents per shaft.
So gun hunters, bow hunters -- are we missing anyone? Never fear -- the feds don't let anglers off the hook. In 1984, a 10 percent excise tax on fishing tackle boxes was created by Congress, with the resulting revenue earmarked for fish conservation and research projects. Amazingly, this tax has decreased to 3 percent.
Some taxes were passed to help pay for President's Obama's plan to provide affordable health care. One is the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices.
A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services is collected from the customer at time of purchase by the tanning salon.
The feds take a 12 percent levy on truck bodies. The good news is that this tax applies to semis, and not to family pickups. The bad news is that because most everything you buy arrives in stores by semi -- and because truck manufacturers pass this tax on to truck buyers, who in turn pass it on to shipping companies, who in turn pass it on to retailers, who in turn pass it on to consumers -- you pay a piece of this tax anyway.
A good example of confusing tax logic is the 24.3 cent per gallon tax on natural gas. Up until the end of last year, this tax was first imposed, then more than canceled out by a 50 cent per gallon tax credit on liquefied natural gas.
And finally, have you ever thought to yourself that airplane tickets are too expensive, and the rates the airlines advertise are too confusing? You can thank this tax for that. The feds charge a 7.5 percent excise tax on every plane ticket you buy, and they also charge fees on top of the tax. Each leg of a domestic plane flight carries a $4 federal fee. Each international arrival or departure costs $17.50. And since flying to Hawaii or Alaska is sort of domestic, but also kind of international, the feds split the difference and charge you an extra $8.70 for those. Over the past two years, these fees have risen 4.5 percent. Enjoy your flight.
Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks directly affected by any of the above excise taxes. At least, he doesn't think he does. But then again, up until a few weeks ago he didn't even realize that most of these taxes existed.