Relief from the Ottoman Empire, and Other Fun Facts About Taxes!

Picture of the Ottoman Empire

The Internal Revenue Code is 74,608 pages long.  To put that into perspective, you could read Stephen King’s ten longest novels nine times… and still not have read that many pages.  On the plus side, there’s nothing that will get the kids to sleep faster than reading them exceptions to the “material participation” definition for disabled or retired farmers for Schedule F!

In the United Kingdom, televisions are taxed!  The tax is formally called a “television license,” and is currently around $185 USD annually for color (or colour) televisions, and around $62 USD annually for black and white televisions (they collected taxes on over 9,000 black and white televisions in 2015!).  The taxes help fund state-owned broadcasters such as the BBC.

In California, fresh fruit bought from a vending machine is taxed at 33%.

In Alabama, people who purchase a deck of cards pay an extra ten cents per deck.  Sellers must pay a $1 fee, plus a $3 annual license.  This only applies to decks of 54 or fewer, so I guess the makers of UNO have a powerful lobby!

In Oregon, double-amputees get a $50 tax credit.  Single-amputees need not apply.

For you old-timers out there, if you were persecuted by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923, California has you covered!  Any interest income received from settlement payments by individuals persecuted by the Ottoman Turkish Empire may be excluded from income.  This goes for their heirs and estates, as well.

If you take a ride in a hot air balloon in Kansas, check for a tether!  Untethered hot air balloon rides are considered legitimate air transportation and are exempt from sales tax.  Tethered hot air balloon rides are considered an amusement ride, and are subject to sales tax.

Changing gender?  You may be able to deduct some of the cost!  A man diagnosed with gender-identity disorder tried to deduct almost $22,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses for hormone therapy, sexual-reassignment surgeries, and breast augmentation.  The tax court ruled that the hormone therapy and surgeries were qualified medical deductions, but the breast augmentation surgery was determined to be cosmetic surgery, and therefore not deductible.

On April 15th 1987, over 7 million children vanished overnight.  No, it wasn’t a mass kidnapping: the IRS started requiring taxpayers to provide the social security numbers for dependent children on their tax returns.  Prior to the change, all a taxpayer had to do was list the names of their child dependents.

In 1935, President Roosevelt raised the top marginal tax rate to 79%.  This rate applied only to those making $5 million ($88 million in 2016 dollars) or more… which happened to only affect one person, John D. Rockefeller.  For the next three years, Rockefeller was the only taxpayer subject to the 79% rate.

God doesn’t pay his property taxes?  In the 19th century, Peter Armstrong deeded 600 acres of Pennsylvania wilderness to “Almighty God.”  His hope was that the land would be sacred, and exempt from property taxes.  Alas, the county disagreed, forcing a land sale to pay back the property taxes owed by the owner, “Almighty God.”

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