Every year, lawmakers from cash-strapped states dream up new sources of revenue, usually by slapping a tax on something people are willing to pay a little more for – or by taxing something they’re not likely to notice. Everything from that sliced bagel you had for breakfast, to that butterfly tattoo you’re considering to permanently emblazon on yourself, can be subjected to a tax.
There have been a whole slew of new “sin taxes” proposed recently, designed to socially engineer human behavior—think booze and cigarettes, for example. They can also generate considerable revenue. The federal government collected $15.5 billion in federal tobacco taxes in 2011, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Just last month, a Connecticut state lawmaker proposed placing a tax on violent video games in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead. The tragedy has also prompted several proposals to tax gun and ammo sales, ranging from a 5 percent tax on firearm purchases in New Jersey to a 50 percent ammo tax in Maryland.
Other excise taxes are meant to drum up revenue for a particular cause. Earlier this year, a state lawmaker in Illinois proposed a 25 cent “sneaker tax” on all athletic shoes sold in the state to help fund programs for disadvantaged youth. It’s estimated the tax would generate $3 million a year. Then, of course, there are excise taxes that simply exist to bring in cash: Christmas tree decorations, hot air balloon rides, and body piercings, to name a few.