Taxing Your Sins


"Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." Benjamin Franklin

The legal and economic definitions of sin tax can vary from source to source but in general sin tax is a tax on substances or activities that are considered harmful or sinful.  Things such as cigarettes, tanning, and soda and so on are getting taxed heavier now that everyone (including the government) is in need of some money.

Many cash strapped states are looking at "sins" as a lucrative way to close budget defects.  Many of the sin taxes tacked on are relativity small so most people will continue to drink soda and not notice the slight cost increase.   What if the taxes were higher?  I know one of the many reasons why I quit smoking was to save money.  I was paying $2.51 in taxes for a pack of 20 cigarettes! Along with saving money and years of my life,  now I also smell DIVINE and can run up stairs. Check out this chart on cigarette taxes from the Federation of Tax Administrators to get an idea on how much taxes your paying for cigarettes.  The demand for goods such a soda and cigarettes remain relevantly unchanged so it does make sense to tax these "sinful" goods.  But it does make a girl wonder, are these taxes there for revenue or to discourage bad behavior that can jack up the cost of our health care? Catherine Rampell from the New York Times wrote a great article asking "Do 'Fat Taxes' Work?".

Since cigarette taxes work to help with California is considering taxing marijuana to help with their fiscal issues.  How about the  10% tax on tanning in the new health care bill?

"Pole taxes" on adult entertainment have been considered in states such as Pennsylvania, Texas, New York and GeorgiaNevada's State Senate is looking into ways they can expand legalized prostitution and tax it.

There are many "sins" that law makers can and do propose taxes on.  Are these taxes to help close budget deficits? Or are they to discourage me from satisfying my Big Mac attack? Are there any actions or items you wish you could tax?

Image thanks to David Paul Ohmer

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