20 bizarre US state taxes

Despite America's quirks, it can seem fairly normal when compared with other countries. Take taxes, for example: Even when it comes to the most mundane of topics, countries overseas can devise some truly bizarre charges and fines. For example, Ireland and Denmark effectively tax cow flatulence by taxing cattle owners up to $110 per cow. 

But it's not just distant foreigners who are coming up with strange tax laws; Americans are just as creative — and ridiculous. If you live in any of these states, watch out for bizarre state taxes that could be affecting your budget, as well.

Click through to discover some weird nuances to the American tax system

Bizarre US state taxes
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Bizarre US state taxes

1. Arkansas: Tattoo Tax

Be prepared to pay extra sales tax in Arkansas if you're thinking about getting a tattoo — or even electrolysis. Though it's unlikely any rebellious teens got in trouble for coming home without body hair, electrolysis treatments are taxed an extra 6 percent along with tattoos and body piercings. 

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2. California: Vending Machine Fruit Tax

Buying fresh fruit from the grocery store or farmers market doesn't require you to pay extra sales taxes on it. But if you have a hankering for fruit from a vending machine, it will cost you — a 33 percent tax to be exact. It's unclear why this is — or why anyone would want to buy fruit out of a vending machine in the first place — but in California, that's the way it is. 

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3. Colorado: Coffee Cup Lid Tax

When you go to the coffee shop to get your morning fix, you probably take the lid for your coffee for granted — not in Colorado, though. All nonessential packaging in Colorado is taxed an extra 2.9 percent. Your coffee cup is essential, sure, but the lid that goes on it is not. Extra taxes are also charged on stir sticks, cup sleeves and straws. 

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4. Illinois: Candy Tax

What is candy, exactly? According to Illinois lawmakers, there's a very specific definition. Whoppers? No. Lemon drops? Yes. Apparently, it all comes down to flour. If your sweet snack has no flour in it, it falls under the candy category, which comes with a 6.25 percent higher sales tax on it. If you're an Illinois resident that doesn't want to pay the extra tax, consider moving to one of the states with no sales tax at all

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5. Kansas: Amusement Tax

Although many states charge something called an Amusement Tax, this one takes the cake. If you take a hot-air balloon ride in the state of Kansas, it's considered transportation and tax-free. But if you want the security of staying tethered to the ground while in a hot-air balloon, that will cost you 6.5 percent since you're just there to be amused. When you're tethered to the ground, you are, unlike Dorothy, very much still in Kansas — and it'll cost you. 

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6. Maine: Blueberry Tax

Maine's state berry is the blueberry — which is considered a superfood— and Maine is almost the sole provider of blueberries to all of the U.S. So the state charges an extra tax for anything related to the blueberry industry. This tax probably isn't going break your bank, but if you grow, purchase, sell, handle or process blueberries in the state of Maine, prepare to pay 1.5 cents per pound. 

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7. Maryland: Flush Tax

In an attempt to protect the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Restoration Fund in Maryland is supported by a $5 monthly fee on sewer bills and an equivalent $60 annual fee on septic system owners. Flushing your toilet in Maryland is now twice as expensive as it used to be. 

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8. Minnesota: Fur Tax

Looking good and staying warm will apparently cost you big in Minnesota. If fur is your preferred winter coat material, you'll be subject to a 6.8 percent sales tax on not just the fur itself, but also the shipping and transportation of it. 

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9. Alabama: Illegal Drugs Tax

Even though selling drugs, like marijuana and cocaine, is illegal in Alabama, there's a tax law on the books that allows the state to tax the proceeds from drug dealers' sales via tax stamps. For example, 10 grams of marijuana is taxed with a $35 stamp. Although drug kingpins most likely aren't lining up to purchase the stamps and pay taxes on their illegal wares, it doesn't matter. Anyone who is caught with significant quantities of drugs who didn't purchase the tax stamps could be charged with tax evasion unless the tax bill is paid in full.

In other states, however, legal marijuana has already become one of the top growing industries to invest in

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10. Nevada: Loud Live Music Tax

Nevada businesses must pay a 5 to 10 percent sales tax on admissions, food, drink and merchandise to the state whenever there is live entertainment going on. This can include everything from animal stunt performances to comedy and magic. Uncompensated, short performances, however, are tax-free — so you can sing your heart out, for free. 

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11. New York: Bagel Tax

New York residents might want to switch to toast for breakfast. Any bagel that has been sliced or prepared with toppings, like cream cheese or lox, is subject to an 8.875 percent sales tax. If it's whole or sliced without toppings or spread, however, you can eat it tax-free — unless, that is, you eat it while you're still in the store; then you'll also be charged tax.

Find Out: Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Own Taxes 

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12. Indiana: Cake Decorating Tax

When creating a decorated cake in Indiana, bakers can expect to pay a tax on the finishing touches. Although frosting in containers or tubes is tax exempt, cake decorations are not. According to the state of Indiana's tax laws, frosting is not in a "bar, drop or piece" and does not qualify as candy, but cake decorations are considered candy because they are "a preparation of sweeteners and flavorings in a drop or piece form." 

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13. Pennsylvania: Air Tax

Anything that comes out of compressed air vending machine or vacuuming vending machine is subject to a sales and use tax. That's right, Pennsylvania taxes air. Vending machines located on schools or church property, however, are exempt.

Must-Read: Things You Should Never Pay Full Price For 

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14. Tennessee: Litigation Tax

Just to add insult to injury, a tax of up to $29.50 can be levied on residents involved in criminal and civil court proceedings. Juveniles are generally exempt. 

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15. Texas: Belt Buckle Tax

If you want to be a cowboy, or at least dress like one, there aren't any extra taxes on cowboy boots, hats or belts. But a belt buckle is another story. In Texas — where they're quite popular — there's a 6.25 percent sales tax on belt buckles because they're not considered clothes. If you're willing to wait, you can buy it tax-free on the state's annual sales tax holidays

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16. Utah: Sex Tax

Utah residents aren't exactly known for their inhibitions, but this tax was fought hard. In 2004, Utah legislature passed a 10 percent tax on admission and sales of merchandise, food, drink and services for sexually explicit businesses including those with nude or partially nude people.

Related: Can I Claim My Boyfriend or Girlfriend on My Taxes? 

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17. Virginia: Sheep Tax

Just like Maine taxes the blueberry industry, Virginia taxes every lamb and sheep sold in its state. The tax is pretty modest but will cost you $0.50 per lamb or sheep sold in the state. It should be noted, however, that both of these Maine and Virginia taxes are there to help fund campaigns for the products being taxed. 

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18. West Virginia: Sparkler Tax

Although fireworks are illegal in West Virginia, that doesn't stop people from celebrating with other devices. Sellers of sparklers and other novelties that emit showers, sparks or noise must pay an additional $15 registration fee on top of the state's 6 percent sales tax. 

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19. New Jersey: Pumpkin Tax

When it comes to buying pumpkins in the Garden State, they aren't all taxed equally. A pumpkin that's been cut, varnished, painted or is otherwise intended to be a decoration is subject to a tax. These pumpkins don't qualify as tax-exempt items because they are clearly not going to be used as food, only decorations. 

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20. Hawaii: General Excise Tax

Business owners in Hawaii have to pay a 4 percent general excise tax for selling retail goods and services. But they have the option to pass this GET tax on to their customers by adding it to the purchase price of whatever goods or services they sell. So, when you're visiting the Aloha state, hang on to your wallet a little tighter because your money might not go as far as you would like.

Click through to learn more about 50 tax write-offs you need to know about.

Laira Martin and Casey Bond contributed to the reporting for this article. 

Photo credit: Getty



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