Stossel: The Great American Tax Ripoff

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Tax Day gets a lot of attention, but John Stossel says that attention is misleading, because the April 17th deadline is only for income tax. That’s just a fraction of the taxes Americans pay.


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You probably know about property, payroll, and sales taxes, but there are also lots of hidden taxes. Kristin Tate reports on them in her new book, How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to The Great American Ripoff.

Tate found a hundred hidden taxes—a rifle tax, airplane and hotel taxes, dog license fees, a blueberry tax in Maine, a sliced bagel tax in New York City (whole bagels aren’t taxed), and so on.

Our camera followed her as she asked people if they knew about these taxes. Few did.

When people did know about them, like the dog license fee, they assumed it went to cover the public costs of dogs. But, Tate says, “in most cities it doesn’t go to dogs. It just goes to the general fund like all of these other fees.”

Stossel assumed 911 fees went to maintain the emergency system. But Tate says they usually don’t.

“In most states and cities the 911 fees just go to general funds,” she said. In Chicago, “they hiked their 911 fee in 2008. The reason for the hike was to fund their Olympic bid.”

But when Chicago lost its Olympic bid, the 911 fee hike stayed in place.

“Once they put [taxes] there, they almost never go away,” Stossel suggested.

“Absolutely not. Government only grows,” Tate said.

The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel, his independent production company, Stossel Productions, and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.



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