Archive for the ‘Fees’ Category

Tax Bites By The Numbers

November 13, 2008

The Americans for Tax Reform Foundation has created an enlightening chart that estimates how much more money Americans must pay for certain goods and services because of taxes. Some of the taxes — the kind I have tracked here — appear on consumers’ bills, but many others are hidden.

Here’s the rundown from ATR:

  • Cigarettes: 81.3 percent more
  • Distilled spirits: 79.6 percent
  • Car rentals: 60.6 percent
  • Beer: 56.2 percent
  • Domestic airfare: 55 percent (much more for international, based on reports from a friend who travels abroad frequently)
  • Landline phones: 51.8 percent
  • Gasoline: 51.2 percent
  • Hotel stays: 50 percent
  • Cell phones: 46.4 percent
  • Cable television: 46.3 percent
  • Firearms: 45.6 percent
  • Restaurant meals: 44.8 percent
  • Soda: 37.6 percent

I don’t drink or smoke, so I’m not personally affected by the “sin taxes.” And while I own a couple of hunting guns, I haven’t bought a new one in almost 20 years, so firearms taxes aren’t likely to rob me of more cash. But I have been hit by every one of the other taxes on the list more than once this year.

I keep a copy of ATR’s chart in my office at work as a stark reminder of how intrusive the government is in my life and my wallet. You should print a copy, too, at


Gouged By Soccer Bureaucrats

June 30, 2008

The tax-and-spenders in government have nothing on the amateur bureaucrats who run the Northern Virginia Soccer League, where our two older children have played the past few years. They just jacked up the price for playing from the $70 we paid for the spring season to $96 for the fall.

My wife, Kimberly, is as furious about that 35 percent fee hike as I am. We’ve griped to each other for years about the exorbitant $70, wondering what it covered. Now they’re charging even more — and the cheapskates don’t even buy any trophies for the kids from those fees.

We paid quite a bit less for our kids to play soccer in another the league when they were younger, but we changed leagues to save on gas and time. We’ll stay put for now because with gas now almost double what it was when we changed leagues, it’s still be cheaper even with the pay hike. But I’m going to do some digging to see what I can learn about how the league is spending its money.

A Century Of Tax Mischief

May 5, 2008

My Dad forwarded to me an e-mail that included this gem about all of the taxes conceived in the minds of politicians over the past century (the impact of several of them on just our family has been chronicled on this blog):

Accounts receivable tax
Building permit tax
CDL license tax
Cigarette tax
Corporate income tax
Dog license tax
Federal income tax
Federal unemployment tax
Fishing license tax
Food license tax
Fuel permit tax
Gasoline tax
Hunting license tax
Inheritance tax
Inventory tax
IRS interest charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor tax
Luxury tax
Marriage license tax
Medicare tax
Property tax
Real-estate tax
Service charge taxes
Social Security tax
Road usage tax (truckers)
Sales taxes
Recreational vehicle tax
School tax
State income tax
State unemployment tax
Telephone taxes
— Federal excise
— Universal service fee
— Federal, state and local surcharges
— Minimum-usage surcharge
— Taxes on recurring and non-recurring phone charges
— State and local phone taxes
— Telephone-usage charge tax
Utility tax
Vehicle registration tax
Vehicle sales tax
Watercraft registration tax
Well permit tax
Workers compensation tax

The kicker to the e-mail: “Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. What happened? Can you spell ‘politicians?'”

Higher ‘Tag Taxes’ In Ohio

April 2, 2008

The Advocate, a newspaper that serves Newark, Ohio, thinks the city council should boost the “tag tax” imposed for licensing vehicles in order to improve the city’s roads.

Somehow I doubt the editors would be in such a generous mood if the council suggested a newsprint tax to, say, improve the local education system. Funny how attitudes change when the taxes get personal.

Tomorrow’s Online Music Tax

March 29, 2008

The latter part of this quote from an article in is overblown: “It’ll be a government-approved cartel that collects money from virtually everyone — often without their knowledge — and failure to pay their tax will ultimately result in people with guns coming to your door.”

But the underlying criticism of a proposal to add a $5 fee to people’s Internet service in order to license music downloads is on the mark. It’s a horrible idea, another hidden tax that would punish people who don’t use the Internet to download music just because the music industry has stubbornly resisted changing its business models for the 21st century.

Exercise May Be Bad For Your Financial Health

March 27, 2008

Well, it will be in Rhode Island if Democratic Rep. Arthur Handy gets his way. He has proposed expanding the sales tax to include health-club memberships, as well as expensive clothing, landscaping and legal services.

I love this quote from Gov. Donald Carcieri: “All they’re doing is taxing just about everything that moves.”

The good news is that even Handy’s own party doesn’t support his plan. If he can’t win the backing of tax-and-spend Democrats, his odds seem pretty slim. The bad news is that Carcieri, a Republican, is open to the idea of more fees.

You Say ‘User Fee,’ I Say ‘Tax’

March 13, 2008

Florida may raise its cigarette tax by $1 a pack, but supporters of the proposal don’t want to call it a tax. They embracing that old pro-tax standy phrase, “user fee.”

Here’s what Sarasota Herald-Tribune columnist Tom Lyons had to say about that nonsense: “Well, the term ‘user fee’ has been stretched before, but this would be an atomic wedgie. User fees are charged when the government provides someone a product or service that others don’t get. The government isn’t providing cigarettes, and lots of non-smokers do things that increase their use of medical services.”

Take Out The Trash Tax

March 6, 2008

Years ago in the Virginia county where we live, local officials decided to jack up the fees required to dump trash. That’s one fee I’m more than willing to pay, but as usual, the money-grubbing bureaucrats went overboard and caused a big stink (pun intended).

Folks in Tampa, Fla., where I lived for a year in 1987-88, face a similar fate now:

Solid waste fees will need to increase by at least $3.50 a month over the next five years to cover the rising cost of garbage collection, Mayor Pam Iorio told City Council members Wednesday.

The Tax Hikers Of Evanston

February 29, 2008

The good people of Evanston, Ill., awoke to some bad news yesterday:

The Evanston City Council voted 8-1 Wednesday to raise its portion of Evanston’s property taxes by 7.02 percent, an amount Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said was the highest in the more than 20 years she has been involved in Evanston politics.

Oh, and remind me never to move near the city but get a job within it:

Some of the changes voted on by the council Wednesday night include an $80 vehicle registration fee increase for non-residents who wish to park in Evanston.

Hunting And Fishing For Money

February 27, 2008

As a hunter and fisherman from way back in my days of West Virginia youth, I’m partial to the idea of sportsmen paying to help protect wildlife habitats. It’s the best way to keep the sports of hunting and fishing vibrant. We get something for the money we pay.

But Minnesota’s call to increase the state sales tax to pay for wildlife and arts programs under something called the Legacy Act is a bad idea. Money-grubbing lawmakers eventually will find a way to get their hands on that money for other reasons.

Wildlife programs should be funded by licensing fees and other dedicated revenue-raisers with a direct connection to the ultimate goal. It’s never a good idea to raise general taxes for specific purposes because it just invites more tax hikes down the road as special interests fight over the pot of money.

As for funding arts programs, if new taxes ain’t for readin’, writin’ and arithmetic, you won’t find any support for them in these quarters. I’m reluctant to fork over more money even for those core subjects to education bureaucrats who have screwed up our school sytems beyond belief. We home-school for a reason.

Governments actually need to give tax breaks to people like us because under the current system, we’re paying for our children’s education twice — once for schools they don’t attend and then again for the books and other expenses to give them a better education at home.

Raise My Taxes? How Thoughtful!

February 14, 2008

Politicians love to promise “change” when they are running for office, but budget bureaucrats in Sumner County, Tenn., don’t think apparently overworked clerks should have to make change for taxpayers when they buy vehicle license tags.

Their solution: Raise taxes to the nearest dollar!!!

Ben Cunningham of the blog TaxingTennessee has a better idea: Lower taxes to the nearest dollar in the other direction and thus put 75 cents back into the pockets of hard-working taxpayers instead of taking 25 cents more of their money.

He assumes, of course, that the county officials are speaking the truth about the reason behind the proposed tax hike. We all know better. The motive is to get more money, not make life easier for clerks.

Buy A Car, Go Without Food

January 27, 2008

This time last year, we took the plunge and bought a new minivan. The Oldsmobile Silhouette we had bought used from my parents had about 150,000 miles on it, so we jumped at the chance to lock in 0 percent interest on a new 2006 Toyota Sienna.

Our salesman reminded us of that purchase with a corny “anniversary” letter several days ago. The letter made me remember the tax sticker shock I had when we bought the car, so I dedided to relive the experience.

At a rate of 3 percent, we paid $692.04 in sales taxes. But that’s not all. There was also a $38.76 charge for the “dealer’s business license tax,” $34.50 for “government license fees” and $10 for “government certificate of title fees.”

The total tab for taxes and fees for a new car: $775.30. That’s enough to feed a family of four for two months or more, even with today’s inflation.

You Say Fee, I Say Tax

January 23, 2008

The Legislature here in Virginia is moving quickly to overturn “abusive driver” fees that lawmakers and the governor signed into law last year.

The House passed a bill yesterday, and a state Senate committee followed suit today. One lawmaker said, “I think we crossed the line on public trust” by imposing the fees. Another who was a key proponent of the fees and initially called for revising the idea rather than repealing it now says repeal is inevitable.

You’d think that would be good news for all of us taxpayers in the commonwealth, but don’t count on it. Here’s what the delegate who reversed course said: “[W]ith the repeal, they’re going to realize I’m not as stupid as they thought because now they’re looking at a big fat gas tax increase” to cover the lost revenue.

That statement pretty effectively puts to the lie the idea that a “fee” is anything more than a “hidden tax.” I don’t like either one, but I’d rather lawmakers be forced to vote openly for or against tax hikes than hide behind radical fees.