The weirdest American tax laws and what happened to them
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The Weirdest American Tax Laws and What Happened to Them
Nobody likes paying taxes, but it’s just a fact of life in the U.S. tax system. If you thought it was bad enough that the government takes a hefty chunk of your income, imagine if you had to pay a tax just for being a single man. In Missouri, back in the 1820s, bachelors had to pay up or get married.
That’s not even the weirdest tax law on this list, but it is one of the few that are no longer enforced. If you’re wondering about what you might have had to pay for back in the day or how you might benefit now, take a look at some of the strangest taxes.
Playing Cards Tax
Most people play cards for fun, but the game is still linked to gambling in many people’s minds. Maybe that’s why the state of Alabama charged a 10 cent tax per pack on this otherwise innocuous form of entertainment. However, the state saw the error of its ways in 2015, when it repealed the tax.
Rent a Cow for a Tax Loophole
It’s not unusual for a state to have a tax exemption for farmers or ranchers. However, one such law in Florida, the “greenbelt law,” for agricultural designation and use of a property, was a little too open to interpretation. People found ways to manipulate this law to get a tax break, namely property developers who literally rented cows to save money while a property was under development — even Walt Disney World tried to pull one over on the state. Florida got smart, however, and in 2016, amended the law so that you can no longer call a couple of cows a farm.
Before recent shifts toward a more liberal attitude about marriage in this country, there was a time when Missouri tried to encourage single men to tie the knot as quickly as possible, by taxing them. In 1821, Missouri passed this so-called “bachelor tax,” charging single men between the age of 21 and 50 $1 annually. The bachelor tax is no longer enforced.
In 1998, the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) made it illegal for states to charge sales tax for internet use. Wisconsin wasn’t ready to give up that tax, however, and was able to secure an exemption as one of a few states that are allowed to tax internet access through June 30, 2020.
A Not-So-Temporary Alcohol Tax
A tax on alcohol isn’t unusual, but in Johnstown, Penn., it’s taxed at an unprecedented 18 percent. The reason for this stems from 1936 when the city experienced a devastating flood. To pay for necessary repairs, the city created a new tax law that raised the alcohol tax temporarily to 10 percent. Even though the repairs were completed by 1942, the tax never went back down, and in fact, went up again to 18 percent in 1968.
Premarital Counseling Tax Credit
South Carolina puts a lot of weight on the institution of marriage: They’ll offer a $50 tax credit as an incentive to couples on the brink of marriage if they take at least six hours of qualified premarital counseling and then file a joint tax return.
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Tax Benefits for Being Over 100
Old age typically takes more than it gives, but in the state of New Mexico, since 2002, if you’re 100 years or older and not claimed as a dependent on anyone’s taxes, old age comes with one cool benefit — the state exempts centenarians from filing and paying New Mexico personal income tax.
In New Hampshire, a state full of quarries and gravel pits, residents can expect to pay an excavation tax for any cubic yard of earth that is excavated. The goal of this tax is to make sure that industrial operations pay their fair share. You can’t even give away dirt for free — you’ll owe taxes on any dirt you dig up.
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A Tree Lover's Tax Deduction
In 1975, the Hawaii State Legislature felt it needed to slow down the destruction of the state’s many native trees, so it passed Act 105 — The Exceptional Tree Act. This move set out to save “exceptional” trees that were considered valuable for beauty and “crucial ecological functions.” If you can get a certified arborist to deem your trees exceptional, you can earn a tax deduction of up to $3,000 per tree to pay for the cost of tree maintenance.
Tax Deduction for Preparing for a Nuclear Fallout
It’s hard to say if Alabamans are just a bit more paranoid about potential nuclear fallout than others or if they just prefer to be prepared, but in this state, a family can deduct up to $1,000 for building a personal radioactive fallout shelter, with approval and certification by the State Department of Emergency Management, of course. This exemption also applies toward a community radioactive fallout shelter.
Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday
Every September, hunters, and marksmen in the state of Louisiana rejoice at a Second Amendment sales tax holiday. For one weekend, all consumer purchases of firearms, ammunition, and hunting supplies are exempt from sales tax. This includes everything from shotguns and revolvers to holsters and decoys. But don’t expect to get that exemption on hunting-related animals or toys, and be sure to report the exemption on a sales tax return form with your regular taxes.
A Whale of a Tax Deduction
Though many movements have popped up to “save the whales,” whaling is and has been a part of Alaskan Eskimo culture for hundreds of years.
Therefore, the state of Alaska respects the tribal customs with a tax deduction of up to $10,000 per year for whaling expenses. But any old guy with a boat and a harpoon can’t claim the deduction; you have to be recognized by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission as a whaling captain for sanctioned whaling activities. These activities must align with the plans of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.
Whether you like to let your inner Katniss Everdeen fly for sport or fun, buying arrows comes at a cost — a federal excise tax of 43 cents for arrows that are 18 inches or longer.
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Premade Food Tax
The state of Michigan inadvertently encourages making food from scratch by how it taxes food — your premade apple pie is taxed, but a bag of apples and the flour to make it isn’t. That’s because Michigan taxes prepared food but not unprepared food.
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A Leprosy Tax Exemption
In the state of Hawaii, until 1969, people with Hansen’s Disease, also known as leprosy, were banished to an isolated part of the island of Molokai, away from the general public. Since then, the disease has been cured and Hawaii has made amends for that old policy by offering any person with the disease, who is confined, an exemption of the first $50,000 of a property’s value from taxation.
The Lowest Taxes of Them All
Most of us can’t imagine life without sales tax, but residents of Delaware can; the state is one of only five without sales tax. It also keeps taxes remarkably low on corporations, at just 8.7 percent. It’s no wonder that more than 66 percent of Fortune 500 companies set up their home base in this low tax state.
Click through to read more about the tax loopholes that could save you thousands.
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