7/29/2011 12:04 PM ET|
Governments getting more fee-happy
To save on park entrance and camping fees, check for discount offers at the state parks' websites. Some state parks have affiliated foundations that offer entrance passes and discounted camping fees as membership benefits. The California State Parks Foundation, for example, offers seven day-use passes in exchange for an annual $25 membership fee.
Fees on criminals
Only felons actually lose their right to vote, but lawmakers in many states clearly aren't worried about generating a backlash from the criminal element by imposing new fees on convicts. Here are a few:
- Virginia has introduced a $10 fee on anyone convicted of Internet crimes against children. Chillingly, the state expects to collect $2 million from this fee in fiscal 2011.
- Idaho has increased court fees so that those convicted of infractions pay $10 more, those convicted of misdemeanors pay $50 more and felons pay an additional $100.
- Arizona has increased probation surcharges from $10 to $20, while one-time fees for those requiring intensive probation have risen from $50 to $75.
- Louisiana has instituted a $65 one-time fee for probation and parole processing.
- Texas now has a $34 fee for those placed on community supervision.
How to cope: Sorry, no advice to offer here, other than "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time -- and can't pay the fee."
Fees on cellphones
Wireless carriers have long been notorious for pretending that the fees they charge are actually taxes. In a case of life imitating artifice, governments are now larding your cellphone bills with taxes disguised as fees.
A study by the Tax Foundation found that typical U.S. wireless consumers pay government-ordered taxes and fees that total 16.3% of their bills. State and local charges alone average 11.2% of typical bills. The tax rate exceeds 20% in Illinois, Florida, Nebraska, New York and Washington state.
Here are just a few examples:
- Baltimore imposes a $4-per-line monthly tax on wireless users, while nearby Montgomery County, Md., collects $3.50 per line.
- Louisiana has imposed a 2% "911" fee on prepaid wireless phones since 2010.
- New York state recently enacted a $1.25-a-month "public safety communications surcharge" for every cellphone.
- In Nebraska and Kansas, Universal Service Fund charges -- which amount to less than 1% in other states -- exceed 4%.
How to cope: Government fees and taxes are based on the user's place of "primary use" -- which is typically determined by the address where the bill is sent. You may get a break if you are willing to lie about where you live and arrange for electronic billing (as this Forbes writer did). States' cell tax rates range from 23.7% in Nebraska to 6.9% in Oregon.
Fees at courthouses
Expect any brush with the courts to cost you more these days, even if you're just recording a document, getting a copy of a birth certificate or selling a home. And if imposing higher fees wasn't enough, some state governments have added surcharges to those fees for good measure.
Some examples of pesky court fees:
- Hitting the "delete" button now costs more: Rhode Island has instituted a $100 charge in 2010 for court orders that grant the expunging of records.
- Utah has raised fees for filing court petitions, which generated an estimated $9.3 million this year.
- Washington state and Oregon have imposed surcharges on court fees, and Washington has increased its document-recording surcharge. Washington will reap more than $14 million a year from the new fees and surcharges, while Oregon will take in an additional $19 million a year.
- North Carolina has boosted a variety of court fees, and its revenue, by $51 million a year.
- Virginia has raised its deed-recording fee by $10, generating an additional $9 million in the state's just-ended fiscal year.
How to cope: If you have a low income and have to do business with the court system, ask if there's a program that waives or lowers fees in hardship situations.
Fees on cars
State legislatures have been raising gas taxes to bridge their budget gaps, but they've really gone to town on raising car and driver fees. Several states have boosted costs for registration, permits and license plates.
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Eventually they'll run up against the concept of "elastic demand," which is a fancy way of saying that the more something costs, the less people will buy it. You can sell 10 park passes for $25 or 50 passes for $10. Which makes more money? And then there's the problem of cheating. Park across the road and walk to the park and pay nothing.
Gouge your tourists and they go elsewhere. Gouge your own residents and they find ways around it or stop using the service. Either way, your economy loses. That's just Econ 101.
Typically, fees are the only revenue tools of those who have taken a political stand against raising taxes. Hasn't anyone noticed that when they don't tax you, the fees will always increase. It is a matter of spin control by the all taxes are bad crowd.
Why not have a simple flat tax without tax breaks and loopholes for anyone? It would diminish the power of lobbyists, reduce political corruption and questionable campaign fund raising, as well as stop big tax breaks for the big money interests. It was aristocratic interference and taxation without representation that fueled the American Revolution. The new anti-tax revolt is funded by the new aristocracy under the guise of a popular political movement. The question is who benefits? It doesn't look like the middle class, to me.
Unfortunately, government is just like any other monoply in that it can charge what it wants and there's nothing that can be done about it. Only thing that is troublesome is that economic monopolies are regulated by the government but who's regulating the governmental monopoly?
Why do we keep putting up with this? When are people going to stand up and say "no more ripping me off"?
These fat agencies and local government nesters are just protecting their fat paychecks and benefits while everyone else spins downward.
Someone who knows how needs to initiate legislation to restrict any government fee increases without voter approval.
The other thing I noticed is that there has been a lot of talk about 'not raising taxes but instead closing loopholes', which is basically just political nonsense, as the end-game is still the same: extracting more money from the taxpayer.
I think the fundamental problem is that the size and inefficiency of our government is dragging down the entire country. It seems like the government only gets bigger (never smaller), and it's just an increasing burden to be carried by our struggling economy.
Six years ago, I retired from a municipal government with over 31 years of service. These fees mentioned in the article are nothing new. Back in the 80's, with budget cuts and property tax rates limited, a trade magazine for gevernment told how to develop fees on services without calling them taxes. That way, they couldn't be subjected to roll backs, and governments would be able to say "in this economy, we didn't raise your taxes."
In addition, governments could leave their tax rates the same, and appraisal districts could appraise your property at a higher value, resulting in higher taxes on your property. Basically, this article is telling what has been going on over the years, and some governments are just now picking up on it.
This is utter ****! Just because it's the law does not make it lawful! It is time for Americans to stop being such self indulgent ****s and call **** what it really is, ****, but if what it is going to take for the people of this nation to realize they are already ethically and morally bankrupt is to get hit in the only place it ever seems to really hurt them, their wallets, I say bring it on!
Bob Sanchez it is an eyes opener. Every thing is said is 110% right. Everyone needs to see it. Thank you and God bless the American Families in there time of need.
NO ONE REALLY CARES: Today in the United States, there are over 26 million American families living on the streets! With more on the way! Republican Party are un-American! They did all this bull in the first place! My Family was holding are own and we are down to only the basics to live. Roof, lights, heat, landline phone and food. No going out ever to eat, movies or to go away for a day or two to have fun. The Government needs to go out and get a really job to feed itself like all Americans have to. For now on all the money I work my butt off for is for my Family. Get your own!
Chrage the Poor to Feed The wealthy!
Charge the hungry to feed The Wealthy!
What a pathetic country the United States oof America has become
Wealth over life
Evidently those in Washington DC have forgotten the values that made this country grand, as today there is no leadership, no compassion or empathy for the fellow man---well unless they are wealthy enough to meet at the top golf course, pay off constitutes to alter facts or who fail to pay thier taxes as they have loopholes and privileges to obide by in order to get another kickback.
MR. Obama if you reallyy want to make that change end the bullsh-t and stop charing the poor to feed the wealthy!
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