Tuesday, December 05, 2006

$240 a year for the privilege of working here?

Or, Stick Your Head Tax, I'll Start Shopping in the Borough
Even if it Costs More in a Largely Futile Gesture

In light of the Fairbanks' City Council's decision to meet its voter-stupidity-induced budget shortfall by levying an employment head tax, I decided I needed to find out more about this particular form of taxation.

Here's what Wikipedia had to say about it:

A poll tax, head tax, or capitation is a tax of a uniform, fixed amount per individual (as opposed to a percentage of income). Such taxes were important sources of revenue for many countries into the 19th century, but this is no longer the case.*
Ah, the good ol' 19th Century. Lots of fun examples of governance back there.

Apparently, some cities in the United States an employment tax, though it was hard to find much information about it. In some cases the employer kicks in a portion of the tax. But it seems to be a rare thing - when I Googled the topic, most of the hits I got were for some tax the Canadian government levied on Chinese immigrants to discourage immigration to Canada beginning in the good ol' 19th century.

According to today's Fairbanks Daily News Minus, city officials think that this tax will generate about $4.7 million of the $10.3 million dollar budget shortfall. Other sources of possible future revenue generating measures include a motor vehicle tax and a business gross-receipts tax.

I have a few suggestion where Fairbanks might squeeze out a little more revenue:
  • Canine head tax: Ever been to a Squarebanks or Goldstream party? That's right, more dogs than people. Tax the dogs too!
  • New traffic tickets for those who insist on idling their vehicles in parking lots when it is not cold enough to require it.
  • Two words: PULL TABS. Yep, let the city fund itself by selling the most boring form of gambling ever devised.
  • Public eyesore tax: Not to apply to clothing. But if you want to have piles of junk at home visible from the road, when you don't actually operate a junkyard, a fee would be assessed based on sheer ugliness and total volume of junk. There would be a blue tarp exemption.
  • Budweiser, Crappy Beer That No One Ought to be Drinking Anyway, Tax: Through its vast marketing machine, Bud sells well even though it tastes awful. Tax the Bud drinkers!
  • McDonald's Drive Thru Tax: Have you ever seen the lines at that drive thru? A sin tax par excellance.
  • And a Very Special Goldstream Valley Tax: Remember the Other Prop 2? Well, let's just say it enjoyed popular support out there. Legalize it and tax it before the Mat-Su Valley does!

*(Editor's note: the following material also courtesy of Wikipedia) There are several famous cases of poll taxes in history, notably a tax formerly required for voting in parts of the United States that was often designed to disenfranchise African Americans, Native Americans, and whites of non-British descent, as well as two taxes levied by John of Gaunt and Margaret Thatcher in the fourteenth and twentieth centuries respectively.

The word poll is an English word that once meant "head", hence the name poll tax for a per-person tax. However, in the United States, the term has come to be used almost exclusively for a fixed tax applied to voting. Since "going to the polls" is a common idiom for voting (deriving, of course, from the fact that early voting involved head-counts), a new folk etymology has supplanted common knowledge of the phrase's true origins in America.

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