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10 sort of hidden taxes

Forbes online magazine has an interesting story on what it's calling hidden taxes.

The article's premise is that these are government levies that aren't readily recognizable by the average consumer. A nifty slide show of 10 hidden taxes also is part of the package.

Although the article takes more swipes at Uncle Sam than local tax collectors, they come at us from all jurisdictions, state -- and county and municipal -- as well as federal.

And while the magazine insists these are hidden taxes, given the growing attention to taxes in recent years -- I and my fellow tax bloggers thank all of you for that -- most of these aren't so surprising anymore.

Below is the magazine's list of hidden taxes, along with some brief comments from me. Check out the slide show (you might have to register) for more details on each.

Gasoline tax: The feds and states both get their due when we pull up to the pump. The federal charge is 18.4 cents per gallon. State and local taxes push that tally, on average, to almost 46 cents a gallon.

Cigarette tax: One of the very popular "sin" taxes; alcohol is the other regular, but it didn't make Forbes' list, so no crying in our beers about taxes today. Back to smoking.

Cigarette_butt_2 In trying to increase funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Capitol Hill is now considering boosting the federal tobacco tax from 39 cents to $1. Then you have state cigarette taxes, which vary dramatically, from 7 cents per pack in South Carolina, a state full of tobacco fields and voting tobacco farmers, to $2.575 per pack in New Jersey. Even some more local taxing agencies have gotten into the act to fund specific projects, as noted in Cigarettes for Cézanne.

Sugar tax: The magazine notes this is not really a tax per se, but the cash register price pinch we grocery shoppers feel when we buy candy (although some states do levy snack taxes) and processed foods. The argument is that abnormally high store shelf prices are the result of existing federal price supports and import tariffs that benefit the campaign-contributing sugar lobby.

Payroll tax: This isn't really a hidden tax. Every one of us, upon getting our first paycheck, wanted to know who is FICA and why is he getting so much of my money?!

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT): Again, a tax that's not so hidden anymore, thanks to the widespread attention it's gotten in recent years as more middle-class taxpayers find themselves paying this parallel, and expensive, levy. Or, as Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson calls it, "the poster child for tax law complexity." More of Nina's AMT thoughts here.

Poker_2 Gambling taxes: Ah yes, Uncle Sam's cousin, Lady Luck. When she graces us with a jackpot at the casino or a trifecta at the track, the IRS expects us to hand over a portion of our winnings.

Social Security tax: Speaking of gambling, let's talk retirement income and taxes. Once you get over the shock of paying payroll taxes, you at least hope to get some of that money back when you eventually retire. But this is where it gets nasty.

If you follow the rules of financial advisers and save so that you can supplement your federal benefits, then part of your Social Security payments -- possibly up to 85 percent -- could be taxed.

Employer-provided life insurance: The magazine warns that this perk could cause an unexpected tax bite.

Air_seats_3 Airline tickets: The airport version of sales tax, when you purchase a ducat to travel by air, you shell out a 7.5 percent ticket tax, along with a $3.40 segment tax for every leg of your trip. And don't forget the airport fee of up to $4.50 per ticket. Hmmm. $3 a gallon gas, even with those taxes, isn't looking so bad anymore.

Personal exemptions: These amounts for yourself and dependents that you enter on your 1040 help reduce your taxable income. But once you make a certain amount -- $156,400 for single filers or $234,600 for couples filing jointly on 2007 returns -- those personal exemptions start to phase out. The good news for high-earners: The deduction reductions will be cut in 2008 and 2009 and completely eliminated in 2010.

If you've run across any more taxes that caught you off guard, please share. Misery, especially in the form of tax travails, does indeed love company.


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Pamela Baggett-Wallis

Hey, Kay, if you are a customer of the Austin energy and water utilities, you pay a huge hidden tax. It's raison d'etre is to make up for lost taxes on property owned by the state as well as other governmental entities. This is a fact that does NOT make me a happy camper!

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