The 9 Strangest Taxes You’ll Find in America

SAVING & SPENDING - TAXES
Some taxes don’t make a lot of sense, but some of them are even stranger than others.
Updated April 3, 2023
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You might think that many taxes don’t make sense or are even unreasonable. In the U.S., each state can tax to fund its activities, and some states have stranger taxes than others. 

The slightest alterations could transform tax-exempt items into taxable ones. But some sales taxes are avoidable if you know what they are. 

Paying taxes when you don’t have to is one of the many ways people waste money. The taxes on this list are some of the strangest in the nation.

Belt buckle tax in Texas

W.Scott McGill/Adobe boots and belt

If you want to purchase a belt buckle in Texas, you might need to pay sales tax. The state won’t tax you if it’s included with a belt since belts are not taxable in the state. 

However, a buckle that is sold separately is considered an accessory, and in Texas, accessories are fair game when it comes to sales tax. 

The good news is the rest of your outfit, including the cowboy boots, is tax-exempt.

Wild blueberry tax in Maine

Bob/Adobe machine harvesting blueberries on a farm

Maine doesn’t impose a tax on staple groceries, like fruit, milk, and vegetables. But there is a tax on wild blueberries, even though they're considered just as much a staple as any other fruit.

The state imposes a tax of 1.5 cents on every pound of wild blueberries processed in Maine. This tax also applies to unprocessed wild blueberries when they're shipped out of state.

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Nonessential packaging in Colorado

ozmen/Adobe Frappuccino in takeaway cup on wooden table

Colorado’s tax laws can get confusing when it comes to packaging. The state applies a 2.9% tax rate to food items when they include packaging for the customer’s convenience. While plates, cups, and bowls are considered essential, many similar items are not.

Straws, cup sleeves, and even foods packaged with portion dividers are deemed nonessential. These convenience items are subject to the 2.9% tax rate, even when packaged with food.

Stud fee tax in Kentucky

Alexey Stiop/Adobe horse in a stable

Kentucky is famous for its horse shows and horse racing. So maybe it makes sense the state charges a tax on stud fees. If you want to breed a thoroughbred, expect to pay the state a 6% tax.

The tax applies even if you choose to use artificial insemination for your mare. However, you're safe from the tax if you live in Kentucky and take your horse out of the state for breeding.

Sliced bagel tax in New York

Dušan Zidar/Adobe bagel sandwich with healthy fillings

Buyer convenience comes into play again in New York State. Unsliced bagels are grocery items and, therefore, tax-exempt. But if you want to buy your bagels sliced, it’ll cost you.

This simple action transforms the unprepared bagel into a prepared food. So, the next time you order bagels, consider if an 8% sales tax is worth the minute it takes to slice your own.

Clothing repair tax in Minnesota

DragonImages/Adobe sewing button

Repairs on shoes are tax-exempt in the state of Minnesota. You can have your shoes repaired, shined, and even dyed, all without paying tax.

However, clothing repairs are subject to sales tax. If you need your gown dry cleaned or buttons on your suit replaced, be prepared to pay sales tax on these services.

Transplant tax in Ohio

andranik123/Adobe patient suffering from hair loss in consultation with a doctor

Physicians won’t need to pay a tax on human organs when used for transplants. But if they need an artificial joint, tax laws apply. Artificial body parts used for transplants are also not tax-exempt.

Though human hair is not artificial, it's not tax-exempt in Ohio either. Physicians providing hair transplants are out of luck and must pay the tax.

Utensil tax in Nebraska

Iuliia/Adobe man hands holding paper food containers

Prepared foods are not tax-exempt in many states, and Nebraska is no exception. But the simple addition of eating with utensils can make otherwise unprepared food into prepared food.

If your food comes with a plastic fork or spoon, you’ll need to pay sales tax. If your soda can comes with a straw, it’s considered a prepared food. If it doesn’t, you might get away without paying extra.

Taxable income for criminals

RomanR/Adobe Illegal crime time dollar and handcuff tax form

Income generated through illegal drug sales and theft, or through any illegal activity, is taxable. The IRS considers these criminal activities self-employment and should be reported on Schedule C of the 1040.

Of course, the likelihood that criminals are honest enough to pay taxes on their illicit revenue is slim to none. But criminals have been convicted on tax evasion charges when no other charges stick (Al Capone is a famous example). 

As a result, many convicted criminals often declare their ill-gotten gains to avoid further evasion charges.

Bottom line

Gorodenkoff/Adobe couple using laptop computer

As Ben Franklin famously said, nothing is certain except death and taxes. Taxes are everywhere and are imposed on just about anything you can imagine. 

Some are complicated, and you might not even pay attention to which items and services you pay sales tax on and which you don’t. 

But you could save a little money by not purchasing that belt buckle separately or by skipping the utensils. Add that money to your savings account instead. 

Every dollar counts, especially if you want to see if you can retire early or buy a house.


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Author Details

Katelyn Washington Katelyn Washington is a writer with a passion for finance and business. She put herself through business school as a single mother of three and has had pieces commissioned by national magazines. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and editing manuscripts for indie authors.

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