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Travel Taxes That Are Strange and Unexpected

Travelers Today       By    Karen Fredrickson

Updated: Apr 11, 2013 03:57 PM EDT

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coffee lid
A woman is suing Continental Airlines company United Continental Holdings Inc. over spilled coffee. The Texas woman claims that she was badly burned by coffee that was spilled on her during a flight from Madrid to Newark in 2011. (Photo : Flickr)

Taxes of a part of life, and as the saying goes, along with death, they are a certainty. That does stop some strange taxes from surprising travelers that are unfamiliar with them.

Here is a list of taxes, compiled by Travel + Leisure, that may surprise travelers:


Arrows: In 2012, the federal government increased an excise tax on arrows, requiring archery enthusiasts to pay an additional 46 cents on arrows 18 inches or longer. Wooden arrows designed for kids are exempt from the tax. Bows are taxed at a rate of 11 percent.

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Playing Cards: A deck of playing cards, even in a non-gambling capacity, has a tax of 10 cents per pack in Alabama. Sellers pay an additional $1 per pack, though consumers probably pay that as well.


Tattoo, Piercing and Electrolysis: Since 2005, Arkansas has imposed a six percent sales tax on all body art and electrolysis. Interestingly, Arkansas is known as the Natural State.


Vending Machine Fruit: In California, pre-sliced fruit is sold in vending machines, and while regular fruit purchased in the grocery store or at a farmer's market is tax free, the fruit found in vending machines has a 33 percent tax.


Coffee Lids: If you order your coffee to go in Colorado, and you want a lid on the coffee, there is a 2.9 percent tax. The State of Colorado considers coffee lids to be "nonessential" packaging and subjects them to tax.


Hot-Air Balloons: In Kansas, hot-air balloons are taxed, unless they are not tied down. Piloted balloons are considered a method of air transportation, and as a result of the Anti-Head Tax Act, are exempt from tax.


Blueberries: Maine produces 99 percent of the nation's blueberries and averages between 80 and 85 million pounds a year. For anyone "growing, handling, processing, selling or purchasing" the fruit, there is a tax, according to Maine's state legislature.


Fur Tax: A tax that will make animals rights activists happy is the one imposed on anyone buying fur in Minnesota. Businesses must pay a 6.5 percent tax on the sale of any fur items. The tax is also applicable to the cost of shipping fur, even for out-of-state people.

New York

Sliced Bagels: New York has a bagel tax. If you want your bagel toasted, there is an added tax. The logic behind this tax is that sliced bagels are usually consumed at a café, and restaurant meals are taxed, while groceries are not.

Goggles: In New York State, items under $110 are not taxed, except for sports attire, such as goggles, which are taxable (unless they are prescription), though bicycle gloves and sweatbands are not.


Strip Clubs: Since 2007, a $5 "pole tax" is imposed on patrons of any of the approximately 200 strip clubs in Texas. The tax has raised more than $15 million, a portion of which goes to fund sexual assault prevention programs.


Air Tax: Coin-operated vacuum vending machines are subject to a "use" tax in this state. It is basically a tax on the use of oxygen and nitrogen.


England & Russia

Both of these countries had beard taxes until 1997.

European Union

Farmers must pay between $18 and $110 per cow to offset the methane gas produced by the animals.


Bribes were legally permitted to be written off on tax returns.

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