When It Comes to Taxes, the Government Always Wants More

Understanding the great American tax rip-off.


The cable bill was the last straw, says Kristin Tate. "That's the one that really made me mad."

Comcast included $36 in charges for mysterious things like "utility tax" and "government access fee."

That motivated her to research obscure taxes and put what she learned in a new book, How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.

Rip-off? Even limited government needs some taxes to fund basic functions.

"Yes," says Tate. "But politicians are cowards. Instead of creating a tax, they magically create these little fees (so) they don't have to tell their voters they raised taxes."

Voters don't often notice the sneaky taxes.

Yesterday was "Tax Day." It was April 17 this year because April 15 fell on Sunday and Monday was Emancipation Day. But by calling April 17 "Tax Day," the media miss the big picture. Income taxes make up less than half the tax most of us pay.

We also must pay payroll tax, corporate tax, gift tax, gambling tax, federal unemployment tax, gas tax, cable and telecom taxes, plane ticket tax, FCC subscriber line charges, car documentation fees, liquor and cigarette taxes, etc.

People can't keep track. For my latest YouTube video, Tate asked people, "What's your tax rate?" Tourists in Times Square said that they thought they paid about 20 percent. But they left off the hotel taxes, airline taxes, etc., that push Americans' total tax load to almost 50 percent.

When you pay those hidden taxes, you may assume they go toward useful things, but Tate knows her taxes pay for government waste.

"Extreme inefficiencies, pensions that are to die for—these amazing salaries that these public workers get that are just laughably above market." New York City's average subway worker makes $155,000 a year.

Politicians suggest their extra taxes go, not to fund those big salaries and "pensions to-die-for," but to pay for the specific services for which the taxes are named. Tate says that's rarely true.

"Cable bills and cellphone bills both have an 'Enhanced 911 Fee.' Consumers were told 911 fees were necessary to make upgrades to emergency communication needs. (But) after it was updated, instead of taking away the tax, it just stayed there."

Chicago doubled cellphone fees to fund its Olympics bid. The Olympics rejected Chicago—but the tax remained. Now Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to raise it again.

More. They always want more.

"New York City has an eight-cent 'bagel-cutting tax,'" says Tate. For some reason, unsliced bagels are not taxed.

California has a 33 percent tax on fruit bought through a vending machine.

Maine imposes a one-and-a-half-cent per pound tax on blueberries shipped out of state.

Because these taxes sound petty, governments disguise them, says Tate, using "important-sounding language—like 'documentation fee,' 'service charge,' or 'equalization fee.'" But most of the money raised just goes to the general budget.

"Wisconsin just renamed its 911 fee the 'Police and Fire Protection Fee,'" says Tate. "But actually, none of that money directly goes to fire or police protection. Instead it goes straight into the state's general fund."

And they still can't fund the pensions the politicians promised government workers.

Tate adopted two dogs and then learned that New York City imposes a $34 per year "pet licensing fee."

"I won't pay it," says Tate. "I am technically breaking the law."

She's braver than I am. I try to follow government's stupid rules. And if I broke them, I wouldn't announce it. I figure the IRS is eager to punish government critics like me.

"I'm totally comfortable talking about that," said Tate. "They can come track me down."

They may. Governments go to great lengths to collect taxes.

"Seattle purchased lists of people buying pet food and mailed them threatening letters," says Tate. "The county's pet-licensing agency made more than $80,000."

Governments should drop the pretense and just charge one huge "everything tax."

Of course, then taxpayers might wake up and realize what's been done to us. That's one thing politicians don't want.

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  1. Let’s call them “Galactic Protection & Preservation Taxes”. Taxes… the galactic prophylactic!

    If you’re against them, you’re against protecting the galaxy!!!

    1. The galaxy already has guardians.

      1. Start making extra cash from home and get paid weekly… By completing freelance jobs you get online… I do this three hr every day, for five days weekly and I earn in this way an extra $2500 each week…

        Go this web and start your work.. Good luck……

      2. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

        This is what I do…

  2. Maine imposes a one-and-a-half-cent per pound tax on blueberries shipped out of state.
    US Constitution, Article I, Section 9:
    No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.

    1. ^^This. That was my first thought when I read that part of the article.

    2. Article 1, Section 9 is a limit on Congress. Congress may prohibit such taxes under Article 1, Section 8 (Commerce Clause).

      1. The Congress actually using the Commerce Clause for its intended purpose would be beyond shocking. They think of it as nothing more than a battleship-sized loophole to evade the restrictions of Article 1 Section 8.

      2. Out of the two clauses, this one fits better.
        US Constitution, Article I, Section 10:
        No state shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection laws: and the net produce of all duties and imposts, laid by any state on imports or exports, shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of the Congress.

        1. Hey! Where’s plank 2 from the communist manifesto? What about asset forfeiture?

  3. Pot taxes are some of the worst.

  4. When I used to live in the USSA my taxes were well over 60%. Might as well avoid the hassle and let the government pay me for not working.

    1. Or GTFO.

      1. I still have a perfectly serviceable pair of scissors (labeled NARFNI, Naval Air Reworking Facility North Island) scavenged from a scrap metal bin in 1983. That’s where your tax money goes.

        1. Man, those are some pricey scissors.

  5. My wife and I flew to Italy last fall out of JFK. On the return trip, we decided to take Amtrak instead of flying back from New York to save some money. We hopped on the airport shuttle to get to the LIRR platform. When we got off the shuttle, there was a turnstile to go through to get down to the platform. I tried to scan my LIRR ticket, only to find we needed to buy ANOTHER $10 pass to go down the stairs.

  6. Tate adopted two dogs and then learned that New York City imposes a $34 per year “pet licensing fee.”

    “I won’t pay it,” says Tate. “I am technically breaking the law.”

    Dogs shot by cops in totally necessary* no-knock SWAT raid in 3… 2… 1…

    *She’s an admitted criminal who owns 2 unlicensed pit bulls and those Heroes in Blue need to get home safe!

  7. I would really like to see a source for the assertion that the average NYC subway worker makes $155k per year.

    1. Pay and benfits total cost.

      You must be a government employee…… me. They are loath to admit that anything that isn’t dollars on their paycheck is in fact, compensation.

      Where I work, the cost of benefits, both mandated (worker’s comp ins, er SS, etc.) and discretionary (retirement, health care, etc.) runs 92% of wages.

      When I worked in the private sector, such generous benfits would have resulted in bankruptcy or, at leas the shareholders firing all of mangement.

      I can honestly say, no one is minding the store.

      When you see it from the inside, it’s much, much, worse.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that revolution is the only answer. However, people have become so complacent or, as Pink Floyd once opined, “comfortably numb”, that there’d never be enough revolutionaries to pull it off.

  8. All you need to know about tax rates is that local, state, and federal governments spend $9T a year, and the feds run a $1T deficit every year (or will soon). If GDP is $20T, that’s a 40% overall rate. It also comes to around $27K per person.

    The rest is just disguises.

    1. ^thread winner^

  9. You suck my blood like a leech
    You break the law and you preach
    Screw my brain till it hurts
    You’ve taken all my money
    And you want more

    1. Misguided old mule with your pig headed rules
      With your narrow minded cronies
      Who are fools of the first division

  10. My Buddy’s mom makes $77 hourly on the computer . She has been laid off for five months but last month her check was $18713 just working on the computer for a few hours. try this web-site


    1. But, but, but…………what does she pay in taxes?

  11. Saya tidak akan membayarnya, “kata Tate.” Saya secara teknis melanggar hukum

  12. Ketika saya dulu tinggal di USSA, pajak saya lebih dari 60%. Mungkin juga menghindari kerumitan dan biarkan pemerintah membayar saya karena tidak bekerja. Saya benar-benar ingin melihat sumber untuk pernyataan bahwa buruh kereta bawah tanah NYC rata-rata menghasilkan $ 155k per tahun.

  13. This is great news! Repealing the communist manifesto 16th amendment would only eliminate fraud and waste. We’d still have roads for nuclear attack evacuation and asset-forfeiture looting by highway police. Never forget Mencken: “No politician is ever benefited by saving money; it is spending it that makes him. Journalism is to politician as dog is to lamp-post.”

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