From hot air balloons to bagels, 2010 proved to be yet another year in which states and municipalities passed some strange tax laws in a desperate bid to raise revenues and close their budget gaps.
A few of the “quirky” sales and use tax highlights of 2010 include:
• Belt buckles in Texas: Every year before it is time to go back to school, several states allow for a tax holiday on school supplies and clothing, with several oddities seemingly infiltrating the exemptions. In Texas, belts are exempt, but belt buckles are not. Cowboy boots and hiking boots are also exempt, but rubber boots and climbing boots are taxable.
• Cup lids in Colorado: Effective March 1, 2010, Colorado eliminated the exemption for non-essential food items and packaging provided with purchased food and beverage items. So, while cups are considered essential, lids are not.
• Hot air balloons in Kansas: On June 30, the Kansas Department of Revenue issued a private letter ruling discussing the taxability of hot air balloon rides. Kansas generally taxes sales of admissions to “any place providing amusement, entertainment or recreation services.” The question was not whether or not balloon rides are entertaining, but whether or not federal law pre-empts the imposition of state sales tax on sales of those rides. Under the Anti-Head Tax Act, 29 U.S.C. Section 40116, states and local jurisdictions are prohibited from imposing fees and charges on airlines and other airport users. The department determined that un-tethered balloon rides where the balloon is actually piloted somewhere “some distance downwind from the launching point” would be considered carrying passengers in air commerce and would be pre-empted by the law. However, state sales tax can be imposed on tethered balloon rides.
• Haunted houses in New York: According to TSB-A-10(11)S, admissions to haunted houses are subject to the New York sales tax.