Thursday, April 19 , 2018, 6:51 am | Mostly Cloudy 49º


Harris Sherline: My Two Cents Worth on More Tax Foolishness

Straight from the news, for your amusement and frustration

For those who write commentaries, articles, op-eds, etc., taxation is the gift that just keeps on giving. There seems to be no end to the analysis, critiques, predictions and miscellaneous wailing that can be and is generally done about the subject.

So, once again, for your enlightenment, amusement and all-around frustration, here are some additional news items about taxes.

In June 2010, the state of Washington enacted legislation that made candy without flour taxable. However, because the law was so difficult for candy makers to follow, it was repealed in December of the same year.

Many states have a “tax holiday” for school supplies and clothing before the start of a new school year, and in Texas, belts are exempt but belt buckles are not. In addition, both cowboy and hiking boots are exempt, but rubber boots and climbing boots are taxable. (Go figure.)

In New York, if you buy a whole bagel and take it home with you, it is not taxable. However, if you eat that same bagel at the shop, it is taxed.

In Colorado, effective March 1, 2010, cup lids that are purchased with cups are taxable, but the cups are not.

The Kansas Department of Revenue issued a private letter in June 2010 about taxing hot air balloon rides. Carrying passengers in air commerce is not taxable, but sales tax can be imposed on tethered balloon rides. My question is, who keeps track of all this?

Admission to a haunted house in New York is taxable.

The tax bill that was recently adopted by Congress is loaded with tax breaks for special interests, including 6,488 earmarks totaling more than $8 billion, notwithstanding all the Republican talk about eliminating them. Here are just some examples:

» $277,000 for potato pest management (in Wisconsin)

» $246,000 for bovine tuberculosis (in Michigan and Minnesota)

» $522,000 for cranberry and blueberry disease and breeding (in New Jersey)

» $500,000 for oyster safety (in Florida)

» $349,000 for swine waste management (in North Carolina)

» $94,000 for blackbird management (in Louisiana)

» $100,000 for the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage Visitors Center (in New York)

“Additionally, the bill earmarks $727,000 to compensate ranchers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan whenever endangered wolves eat their cattle. ... The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s gray wolf program is under intense scrutiny for wasting millions of taxpayer dollars every year to ‘recover’ endangered wolves that are now overpopulating the West and Midwest” (

Owners of NASCAR speedways and other “motor sports entertainment complexes” will be permitted to write off their investments faster than other businesses. (Why?)

There has been another “temporary” fix for the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which would otherwise affect 28 million taxpayers instead of the current 4 million. (I’ve never been able to understand why Congress hasn’t corrected this situation permanently, instead of continuing to “fix” it every year.) noted, “The White House-sponsored bipartisan deficit reduction commission ... counted more than $1 trillion in special breaks in the tax code and said that they should be eliminated or sharply reduced to cut rates for everyone while generating more revenue for the government.” (Congress continues to ignore this information.)

Internal Revenue Service figures continue to show that individual income taxes are heavily skewed against the so-called “rich.” For example, in 2008, the top 1 percent of tax returns paid 38 percent of all federal income taxes.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog,

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