From bullies in a small Wisconsin town to slow drivers in Florida, people across the country are facing a variety of new taxes and penalties.
In Monona, Wis., home to about 7,500 residents, bullies (and their parents) can now be fined under a new law that has been in effect since May 30.
Under the law, all forms of bullying and harassment, ranging from schoolyard tussles to cyber-bullying, can result in a fine of $114 for a first violation and $177 for any subsequent violations. Anyone 12 and older can be hit with the fine. In extreme instances, parents of kids under the age of 18 can also be fined for their child's bad behavior, although they must receive a written warning first.
The law wasn't just written to curb bullying at the playground. It's also meant to deal with adult issues like neighborhood disputes, said Monona's Police chief, Wally Ostrenga. So far, no "bully tickets" have been given out.
The so-called "bullying tax" is just one of a series of new local and state taxes, penalties and fees that consumers are facing. And many of them take effect today, the first day of the fiscal year for most states.
In Florida, pesky drivers who are plodding along in the fast lane can now be ticketed and fined $60 under a provision of a larger highway bill that takes effect today.
The so-called "road rage" law makes it illegal for motorists to drive more than 10 miles below the speed limit in the left lane of a multiple-lane road or highway if another car is coming up behind them.
The ticket would have the same effect on a driver's record as a speeding ticket, said Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant Jeff Frost, which means it could also lead to a higher insurance bill.
Slow drivers and bullies aren't the only ones taking a financial hit. Here are some of the other new taxes and fees going into effect across the country:
Lighting up: It just got more expensive to be a smoker in Minnesota, which is more than doubling the state's tax on cigarettes from $1.23 to $2.83 a pack.
The state now has the sixth highest cigarette tax in the nation, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, although it still pales in comparison to New York's tax of $4.35 per pack.
iTunes and e-books: Also in Minnesota, consumers will have to pay more for digital diversions, under a new state sales tax on digital downloads that takes effect today. A $9.99 e-book purchase, for example, will get charged 69 cents in sales tax.
Shopping: In Arkansas, shoppers will face a state sales tax hike of 0.5%, which brings the state rate to 6.5%. The hike translates to an additional $3 in sales tax on a $600 big-screen TV.
Green vehicles: Being green doesn't pay in Virginia. Under part of a state transportation funding bill passed this spring, owners of hybrid and electric vehicles will have to pay a new $64 annual fee on top of car registration fees. Supporters of the tax argued that drivers of these green cars use the roads, but escape paying the gas taxes that help fund road repairs.
Hitting the road: Just in time for summer travel season, many consumers will face a higher price at the pump in at least five states, ranging from California to Maryland, which hike their state gas taxes today.
While gas taxes are bemoaned by drivers, Scott Drenkard, an economist at the Tax Foundation, said they are actually good tax policy since they help fund road upkeep and repairs.
"They help connect users of roads with the costs of driving on those roads," he said.
New Taxes Kick In on July 1 (Watch Out, Bullies and Slow Drivers)
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.
Generally, when you give money to a charity, you can use the amount of that donation as an itemized deduction on your tax return. However, not all charities qualify as tax-deductible organizations. While there are many types of charities, they must all meet certain criteria to be classified by the IRS as tax-deductible organizations. There are legitimate tax-deductible organizations in many popular categories, such as those listed below.
Married couples have the option to file jointly or separately on their federal income tax returns. The IRS strongly encourages most couples to file joint tax returns by extending several tax breaks to those who file together. In the vast majority of cases, it's best for married couples to file jointly, but there may be a few instances when it's better to submit separate returns.