Laws can be downright wacky. In the name of fun, we took a look at each state to identify some of the more curious laws, taxes, and ordinances. What we came up with—well, you’ll just have to read and see!
About Our Research
It’s way too easy to dig up screwball legislation, thanks to Google. So, of course, that was our first step. From there, we cross-checked our discoveries with trustworthy sources such as city or state codes, or Snopes. Sadly, much of what we found had to be knocked off. The laws in question may have never existed in the first place or were repealed long ago. For example, there’s no Arizona law specifically banning camel hunting, although there may have been in olden days.
Not everything got tossed, though! Plus, we included a few repealed laws (while explaining that they’re no longer on the books). They were too good to pass up, and we welcome the chance to clarify misinformation.
Anyway, let’s dive into the weird stuff.
This zany tax law brought in decent money during the 1990s (hundreds of thousands per year!) but barely anything nowadays. Still, it remains on the books. Basically, Alabama mandates that people selling drugs must use tax stamps on their products akin to what’s on the bottoms of cigarette packs. If someone’s caught with a large amount of drugs and no stamps, they could get prosecuted for tax evasion (as well as drug charges).
The 2020 General Summary of State taxes for Alabama reads, “Forms for the purchase of stamps may be obtained from any Alabama Department of Revenue Taxpayer Service Center. Stamps may be obtained from the Investigations Division located in Montgomery” (refer to page 34).
State employees aren’t permitted to ask buyers why they want the stamps, nor can the stamps be used against buyers in criminal proceedings. Many buyers identify themselves anyway—as stamp collectors. Good move: These are unique stamps, for sure.
Interestingly, Alabama isn’t alone when it comes to taxing illegal drugs. Seventeen other states keep it company, although the revenues coming in from these laws vary. North Carolina rakes in about $8 million a year from its law.
In 2019, a law went into effect saying that everyone in a vehicle had to wear a seat belt. Previously, only kids in the backseat were required to. So much for assumptions that seatbelt-wearing laws were universal!
People legally could not hunt, race, play cards, or shoot on Sundays before April 2015. Luckily, you were excepted if you were on a bus, steamboat, plane, or train—whew. Check out Alabama Criminal Code 2006 (section 13A-12–1) for more information.
The law was repealed in 2015. Feel free to play all the card games you want on Sundays!
So, this tax break isn’t exactly a state or local law. Rather, it’s an IRS law (go, feds!). Captains of whaling vessels that the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission recognizes can claim a $10,000 deduction under charitable contributions (page 6 of the 2020 Charitable Contributions publication).
These captains don’t hunt for profit. Rather, it’s their way of life. They do it for nutritional and cultural reasons, and must adhere to a quota to keep whale numbers healthy.
Alaska frowns upon wasting meat to the point that it’s illegal. All moose and caribou meat must be used for human consumption.
Arizona doesn’t impose sales tax on ice cubes, but blocks of ice get taxed.
Avondale, a major suburb of Phoenix, doesn’t allow fortunetelling and palmistry. These endeavors are deemed misdemeanors. Doesn’t matter whether customers try to compensate fortunetellers through fees or donations, directly or indirectly—it’s flat-out illegal. Hypnotism is generally illegal, too. Exceptions to hypnotism exist if accredited doctors of medication or dentistry use it on patients, or if it is being taught in state-accredited educational institutions.
Arizona makes it illegal to feed garbage to swine unless you have a special permit. However, you don’t need special permission to feed a pig if it’s your pet and your household garbage.
Most states do not tax body piercings, electrolysis, and tattoos. Not so in Arkansas, which imposes a tax of 6 percent.
Little Rock Code 1961, § 25-74 reads, “No person shall sound the horn on a vehicle at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are served after 9:00 p.m.” Well, then!
This law, like many others, makes sense when you look at its history. In the 1920s, drive-in restaurants were popular (now fast food restaurants have replaced them). You honked your horn to get service. Imagine living near such a restaurant and hearing horns go off night after night. You’d be a right grump.
California imposes a 33 percent tax on vending machine items, including fruit. Yeah, it’s possible to buy fruit from vending machines, who knew? Still, you may want to purchase your apples the old-fashioned way in stores to avoid the hefty tax.
Good news, though: If you’re a student buying fruit from a machine inside an educational institution, the tax might not apply.
Suppose you enter a bunch of live frogs into a frog jumping competition. One of them dies. What are your options?
Certainly not eating it! California makes it illegal to eat or otherwise use for any reason a frog that has died or has been killed during a frog jumping competition.
Now, some background on frog jumping matches. They are contests popular in many small communities. Folks enter frogs in hopes that they’ll jump certain distances. Ideally, localities would take great pains to be humane and ensure the welfare of the frogs.
That does not always happen, even with laws such as California’s that discourage people from pushing their frogs to the max. People gather wild frogs, take them out of their homes, make them jump on command, and then all of the sudden, have a bunch of frogs on their hands. The creatures could be released but where exactly? Disease and displacement are major issues, say environmentalists.
Taxes are not due on essential packaging such as coffee cups and lids. However, lids were considered nonessential before 2010. Straws and sleeves still fall under the nonessential category. Also, “a carryout container used by a consumer to carry leftover meals from the restaurant is not essential.”
In Boulder, you’re not allowed to move rocks or boulders on public property unless you’re a city employee doing it as part of your job.
Generally, there is no sales tax in Connecticut. However, some residents pay a bit extra for their bling. The state imposes a luxury goods tax of 7.75 percent on items such as motor vehicles costing more than $50,000, and jewelry costing more than $5,000.
After two Southington police officers and numerous parade marchers got sprayed with Silly String, the town got serious about it. Officials banned the sale, use, and possession of Silly String and smoke bombs in 1996, at least in public places and at parades and carnivals. In other words, residents can still use Silly String in the privacy of their homes.
Have you noticed that an oddly high number of companies are incorporated in Delaware? In fact, 67.8 percent of all Fortune 500 companies incorporated in the state, and there are more incorporations than residents (1.5 million vs. less than 1 million).
That’s because Delaware offers a huge amount of flexibility on how a company is structured. Businesses can also incorporate quickly, within an hour or two. Corporate income taxes are minimal or nonexistent, especially if a business doesn’t actually operate in the state.
Delaware privacy laws also mean that the names of essential officers can stay under wraps. Last but not least, the Court of Chancery uses judges with business experience who resolve cases quickly.
The text of a certain Fenwick Island law reads, “It shall be unlawful for any person to tailgate from any vehicle or picnic on any street or highway within the corporate limits of the Town of Fenwick Island, Delaware, between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 6:00 a.m. For the purposes of this chapter, ‘tailgating’ shall mean standing or sitting and eating or drinking on any street or highway and using the vehicle as a picnic facility.”
If you’ve got a hankering to tailgate, best start at 6:01 a.m. to be safe—not a second before!
Florida enacted its greenbelt law to help preserve farmland through low tax rates. The tax savings could be substantial, in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the agricultural property.
Developers saw all kinds of loopholes and began renting a few cows (or beehives, crops, poultry, etc.), and plopping them on their land. Yes, really. The developers, which included Disney, didn’t have to make an income on their so-called agricultural activities. They could even keep the tax exemption after the land was rezoned for decidedly non-agricultural endeavors. IN case you’re wondering, residential properties never qualified for the exemptions.
Florida generally holds dog owners liable if their animals bite people, including on the owners’ property. However, their responsibility can decrease depending on factors such as the negligence of the bitten person. Another factor: Whether the owner had an easily readable sign on their property that included the words, “Bad Dog.”
Georgia is one of the states requiring a tax stamp on illegal drugs. The tax rate is $3.50 per gram, and it’s a misdemeanor if you sell drugs without a stamp.
Savannah has no qualms about allowing folks to drink in public. People are allowed to drink as long as their liquor is in a plastic, 16-ounce cup within the confines of the Historic District. This law is super popular during events such as the St. Patrick’s Festival and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Under the Exceptional Tree Act, you can deduct up to $3,000 per tree once in a three-year period to help with your expenses maintaining the exceptional tree. These trees qualify based on their cultural or historic value, size, rarity, age, and other factors. This tax law helps preserve Hawaii’s beautiful trees.
Hawaii doesn’t allow drinking (alcohol) on its public beaches. The fines are steep, up to $1,000, and police officers know the usual tourist tricks. You may want to think twice before pouring your liquor into a discreet container.
Idaho has a grocery tax credit to lessen the pain of its grocery sales tax. The state tax commission says that the credit amounts to about $100 per resident.
Adultery is illegal in Idaho and punishable by fines and imprisonment. Some other states criminalize it too, but it rises to the level of a felony in Idaho. It’s rarely used, though.
Twix and Snickers are taxed separately. The flourless Snickers is considered “candy” and carries a 6.25 percent tax. Twix, considered “food,” sails on by with a 1 percent tax. Illinois also considers Twizzlers food, not candy, since the treat contains flour. Other examples of food include Butterfinger Stixx, Whoppers malted milk balls, Kit-Kat, and chocolate-covered pretzels. Examples of candy include yogurt-covered raisins, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, and Butterfinger.
You are out of luck in Illinois if you want to snooze in a cheese factory work room. According to regulations, “It shall be unlawful for any person to sleep, or to allow or permit any person to sleep in any work room of a bake shop, kitchen, dining room, confectionery, creamery, cheese factory, or any place where food is prepared for sale, served or sold, unless all foods therein handled are at all times in hermetically sealed packages.”
Illinois also disallows listing food products for sale on menus when the product isn’t actually served. If you accidentally fall asleep in a bake shop or confectionery work room, at least your purchases should be genuine, not fake or imitation.
It is generally illegal in Indiana to fish via your hands alone, by firearm, net, trap, electric current, and a few other means.
Indiana says that an item does not count as candy for taxation purposes if it contains flour. So, a sales tax does not apply to Kit-Kat, Nestle Crunch, and Twix.
Iowa doesn’t seem to have any super interesting tax laws right now, so we bring you one from 2007. Back then, the state exempted most groceries from sales tax (it still does). Pumpkins weren’t taxed either, even if you planned to decorate them instead of eat them.
Anyway, Iowa officials decided to start taxing pumpkins. Customers who didn’t want to pay had to complete a sales tax exemption attesting that they were going to eat the pumpkin. Alternatively, they could buy the pumpkin with food stamps or purchase a specific type being advertised for use in pumpkin pies.
The Tax Foundation website publicized the tax and created quite a stir. A week later, Iowa officials said they would carve out a new approach to pumpkin taxation. Namely, they soon nixed the new tax. Bye-bye, pumpkin tax! We hardly knew ye.
Iowa requires that imitation butter be sold under the term, “oleomargarine.” Sellers and others associated with selling cannot use words such as, “butter” or “dairy” to hawk the oleomargarine.
Blind Iowans are legally allowed to acquire and carry guns in public, although the law never specifically excluded them.
In 2011, Iowa changed its regulations to make it easier for folks to get and carry guns, regardless of their eyesight and physical abilities. Before that, people who wanted a gun had to get training at a gun range.
A Department of Public Safety spokesperson told Snopes in 2018, “We are not aware of any instance in which a person with a significant visual impairment has used a firearm in a fashion that caused damage, injury, or death.”
The U.S. Congress does not allow states to enact taxes on air transportation under the Anti-Head Tax of 1973. Enter the odd duality of hot air balloons. Sometimes, their passengers go for untethered rides. Sometimes, the rides are tethered. Does it matter?
Wichita does not allow people to bathe or swim in its public fountains, nor can folks dip an arm or foot into the water. Further, they’re not allowed to throw their trash away in a city pool (darn it!).
There’s more. You are not allowed to remove dirt or earth from parks or the airport unless you have a permit or contract.
The state imposes 6 percent tax on horse stud fees (breeding a stallion to a mare). The tax finances the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund which strengthens the state’s horse industry.
Kentucky law says you cannot sell, exchange, display, or possess dyed or colored living chicks, ducklings, other fowl, and rabbits unless they number six or more.
Some localities in Louisiana hold an annual sales tax holiday. During these periods, people can purchase certain firearms, ammunition, and hunting supplies sans the local tax (although the state tax still applies, at least until 2025). Check out other states’ tax holidays here.
It’s illegal to order someone else goods or services if all three of the following situations apply:
- You are harassing or annoying the recipient.
- The recipient doesn’t live with you, isn’t expecting the goods or hasn’t authorized them, or the goods are not a gift.
- The recipient is required to pay for the goods or for their return and has not agreed to do so.
Take a look at the blueberry tax in Maine (Title 36, Chapter 701). Lots of issues, considerations, and repealed provisions for sure. Well, blueberries are tasty, and as the tax code says, “production and marketing of wild blueberries is one of the most important agricultural industries of the State.”
Anyway, the state charges a tax of 1½ cents per pound on wild blueberries processed in Maine and on unprocessed blueberries shipped outside the state. You must have a permit to transport more than 25 pounds of these wild berries.
Maine cities such as Biddeford don’t allow skating or biking on sidewalks (that includes roller skating). Fines in Biddeford are $10.
Also rising to the occasion is Bangor with its elaborately titled, “City of Bangor Ordinance Regulating the Operation of Human-Propelled Conveyances.” These conveyances include roller skates, skateboards, bicycles, scooters, and cross-country training skis. You’re not allowed to use any of these devices in the downtown development district, including on streets, sidewalks, and public ways (some exceptions apply to bikes).
Maryland loves it some Chesapeake Bay. So, the state charges an annual $60 fee on septic systems and monthly $5 fees on regular residential sewer bills. The money goes to the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Restoration Fund.
In Rockville, be careful if you curse profanely on or near streets, sidewalks, or highways. You could be charged with a misdemeanor if anyone hears you.
Massachusetts has one of the highest tax rates on moist snuff (smokeless tobacco). The tax costs 210 percent and is paid by licensees (businesses selling the snuff). In comparison, Arkansas charges 68 percent.
Boston makes a good deal of money from water- and land-based sightseeing tours, trolleys, and cruises. It makes sense that the city has a specific 5 percent tax on ticket purchases for these adventures, whether they take place wholly or partially in Boston.
You’re not permitted to give alcohol or narcotics to someone currently hospitalized for inebriation or its effects. The mere intent to do so can also be criminal if you happen to possess the substances. There is one exception—if you act under the instruction of a physician. Hmm.
Michigan taxes new containers that vendors purchase for shipping and delivery but doesn’t tax reusable containers.
Think again before you drink on a train. Michigan law states, “No person shall while in an offensive state of intoxication enter or be on or remain upon any railway train or interurban car as a passenger.”
Most types of clothing are tax-exempt. These items include hats, bibs, belts, athletic supporters, karate clothes, athletic uniforms, rainwear, snowmobile suits, shoes, tuxedos, uniforms, lab coats, and wedding apparel. They’re not taxed because they fall under general use.
Now, clothing accessories and sports and recreational equipment such as backpacks, briefcases, umbrellas, ballet shoes, baseball gloves, and swim goggles are taxed.
Any law titled, “Greased Pig Contests and Turkey Scrambles,” is bound to entertain. This specific law disallows throwing chicken and turkeys into the air if capturing them is your intent. It also disallows capture-the-pig games, whether or not the pig is greased or oiled. Commit these acts, and you risk being charged with a misdemeanor.
The state has many exemptions to its sales tax. Here’s a sampling: retail sales of livestock, income from grading completed on a farm, sales of ice (to preserve seafood) to commercial fishermen, sales of firefighting equipment to volunteer or governmental fire departments, and sales of production items used in making movies. These items include makeup, shoes, costumes, compressed air, film, and videotape.
Mississippi law does not take kindly to people who cause a ruckus during worship services. The maximum fine for willfully disturbing congregations is $500. The offense also carries the potential of six months imprisonment.
Cigarette lovers, rejoice! Missouri boasts the lowest tax rate on cigarettes in the United States at 17 cents per 20-pack. Second-lowest Virginia charges 30 cents. In contrast, the District of Columbia charges $4.98.
North Kansas City has its share of garage/yard sale regulations. For example, each property is allowed to host only two sales per year. A third sale may be allowed if ownership of the property changes.
Each sale is limited to three consecutive days, daylight hours only. If bad weather occurs, you can get a makeup date without having to apply for another permit. You can’t sell anything purchased for resale. You also cannot “sell goods that accumulated in ordinary dwelling usage.” You are exempt from these restrictions if you’re a charity, school, organization, or similar conducing the sale to benefit your mission.
Big Sky Country offers several alternative energy tax incentives. For instance, if you install a new energy system in your home, you could qualify for an $500 income tax credit. Eligible technologies include solar thermal, solar photovoltaics (PV), geothermal, hydro, wind, and certified pellet stoves.
You can drink openly in public in Butte (although not between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m.). With its open public drinking law, Butte joins a limited group of cities/areas such as the Las Vegas Strip and the aforementioned historic district in Savannah, Georgia.
If you have a venereal disease, you’re not supposed to get married in Nebraska. This law has generated its share of court cases, as you might imagine. However, courts have decided if someone knows they have a venereal disease and get married anyway, the marriage still holds up legally.
Nebraska is a state like Alabama that has a drug tax. Dealers with 6+ ounces of marijuana, 7+ grams of controlled substances sold by weight, or 10+ dosage units must purchase tax stamps and put them on containers.
The tax comes out to $100 per ounce of marijuana sold and is not really enforced. In three decades since 1991, Nebraska has sold just 225 stamps to the effect of $14,050. However, dealers caught without the stamp have been required to pay back $1.5 million.
In other states, election ties might be decided with a coin toss. Not necessarily in Nevada. Instead, high card draws and rolls of the dice may come into play. A high card draw did in 2016 when the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders camps tied during caucuses. In the end, Clinton’s rep drew an ace to beat the six of hearts drawn by Sanders’ rep. In 2008, Clinton’s reps lost two tiebreaking card draws to Barack Obama’s reps.
Reno residents and visitors shouldn’t plan to rest or snooze on city sidewalks. The law bans such activity, noting that, “There are numerous other places within the Downtown Reno Regional Center and adjacent areas where sitting or lying down can be accommodated without unduly interfering with the safe flow of pedestrian traffic.”
You cannot sit or lie down upon public sidewalks, whether you do so with or without a blanket, chair, stool, or other support. Fortunately, exceptions exist for medical emergencies, parades, and some situations with disabilities, among others.
Authorities are supposed to warn violators. Only if offenders continue can they be charged with a misdemeanor.
New Hampshire’s 5 percent flat income tax is only on dividend and interest income. By comparison, 41 states also tax wages and salaries. (There’s no income tax in eight states.)
New Hampshire does not levy a sales tax, but it has high property taxes. A resident might even have to pay four property taxes at the same time: county, town, school, and state education.
Enfield, New Hampshire, really wants residents of its municipal cemeteries. For one, hunting and advertising are not allowed on cemetery property, nor are visitors allowed to picnic. Horseback riding is also forbidden unless it is part of an honor guard.
Remember Iowa? It got rid of an iffy law that taxed pumpkins.
Meanwhile, New Jersey still has separate taxation status for pumpkins, depending on how they’ll be used. Food pumpkins (and food preparation pumpkins) are exempt, while decorative pumpkins are taxable. Officials even took to Twitter in 2019 to remind folks of the law.
New Jersey is the last state in the nation where drivers can’t pump gas on their own 24/7. Since 2016, Oregon has allowed some rural counties more flexibility with self-serve.
COVID-19 didn’t change the rules in New Jersey. Even with some drivers insisting on pumping their own gas and attendants quitting over virus concerns, the self-serve ban remained in place. Not so in Oregon, where rules were temporarily suspended.
New Jersey claims that the ban is in place due to fire hazards and the risks of spilled oil. What about now? A sense of state pride and identity may have more to do with it. “People in New Jersey love the idea that they’ve got somebody to pump their gas,” then-Gov. Chris Christie said in 2011.
Oregon’s ban began for similar reasons New Jersey’s did, but Oregon is larger and more rural. Far-flung areas were allowed to let drivers pump their own gas during certain times starting in 2016. That way, no motorists got stranded at stations if attendants had gone home.
If you’re buying yarn to make sweaters, there’s no sales tax in New Jersey. However, you gotta pay up if your yarn is for an art project.
New Mexico doesn’t make you pay income tax if you are 100 years old or older, and aren’t claimed as a dependent by anyone else.
It is a petty misdemeanor if you improperly sing, play, or render “The Star Spangled Banner” or “Oh Fair New Mexico” in any state public place or assemblage.
Purchase a sliced bagel in New York, and you’re subject to sales tax. Ditto if the bagel is “altered” in any way—buttered or smothered with cream cheese, for example. What if the bagel is whole and unprepared? Then no sales tax applies unless you eat it in the store.
After Netflix’s Tiger King became a hit in 2020, exotic wildlife specialist Tim Harrison said, “We’re going to start seeing more selfies with cubs, more people wanting tiger cubs.”
Maybe not in New York state, though. It has banned selfies and many other forms of contact with big cats since 2014. The law passed after an influx of Tinder selfies. Men loved posing with tigers (one in 10 Tinder photos may have had a tiger in it!).
Despite the Tinder timing, the law actually was created to protect tigers. Cubs make for adorable selfies, but they grow up and create an oversupply of adult tigers. These tigers then get mistreated and neglected. Other states with similar laws include Mississippi and Arizona.
The white goods disposal tax of $3 goes toward the removal of refrigerators, freezers, unit air conditioners, water heaters, clothes dryers, and other bulky appliances. It applies to all new white goods for sale in the state to curb illegal disposal.
Bingo is legal in the Tarheel State but only to a certain extent. For instance, the law says, “Licensed non-profit agencies are allowed to operate no more than twice a week with games being 48 hours apart and no longer than five hours per session. Alcohol may not be sold during these sessions.”
North Carolina does permit beach bingo locations. Prizes are limited to $10 or less, or equivalent merchandise.
Residents who love them some wildlife have the opportunity to contribute (voluntarily!) to the Watchable Wildlife program when they file taxes. It’s a wildlife conservation program. Even better, you can donate directly to it at any time, not just tax time. The program has funded bird feeders at nursing homes, bluebird trails, informational posters, and many other projects. Many states have similar programs.
You must obtain a permit from the Fargo health department before killing pigeons or other wild birds. On the application, you must specify the mode of extermination to be used and be licensed as an exterminator.
Ohio started to tax digital products in 2014 since their physical counterparts were taxed (think ebooks vs. print books, streaming movies vs. DVDs, etc.).
At first glance, Ohio seems to have a law saying folks can’t get arrested on Sundays or on July 4. It reads, “No person shall be arrested during a sitting of the senate or house of representatives, within the hall where such session is being held, or in any court of justice, during the sitting of such court, or on Sunday, or on the fourth day of July.” However, the law isn’t a precursor to real-life purges. Rather, it applies to judgments against debtors.
The Sooner State fully taxes groceries. It does offer a $40 credit per person, but the amount hasn’t changed in at least 30 years.
Tulsa doesn’t allow you to make glue from dead animals, including skunk hides—at least not without a permit from the director of health.
Oregon levies a 17 percent tax on marijuana. That’s a good sight lower than the 37 percent neighbor Washington charges. Another neighbor, California, charges 15 percent.
In the Beaver State, you risk a misdemeanor charge if you go about, “improperly disposing of human waste if the person is operating or riding in a motor vehicle and the person throws, puts or otherwise leaves a container of urine or other human waste on or beside the highway.”
In other words, no throwing pee or poop out of cars, or leaving them on the highway.
The 1936 Johnstown Flood Tax is alive and kicking even today. Enacted to help Johnstown rebuild after a flood, the tax is charged on alcohol purchases. It’s folded into the retail price and isn’t obvious. Nowadays, the money funnels into the state general fund.
Skim over the Ocean State’s tax forms, and nothing might seem unusual. However, take a look at 2020 Form RI-1040, Resident Individual Income Tax Return. It uses emojis: a smiley face associated with overpaying your tax and owing nothing, and a frowny face associated with owing money. Rhode Island has done this for a while.
Hunters can donate their deer or wild hog meat to feed the hungry and receive a nonrefundable credit of $75 for each donated carcass. S.C. Hunters for the Hungry, a 501(c)(3) charity, assists with distribution.
South Carolina has an entertaining slew of outdated laws (or laws that arguably shouldn’t have been enacted in the first place). It’s technically illegal to:
- Seduce women by promising to marry them
- Challenge someone to a duel or accept such a challenge
- Commit sodomy, adultery, or fornication
- Open dancing halls on Sundays
- Shop on Sundays unless for necessities
- Perform worldly work on Sundays
Efforts to remove these laws from the books haven’t been successful. Lawmakers prefer to legislate weightier matters, apparently.
However, there’s a much more recent law from 2008 that fits right in among its older counterparts. Minors aren’t allowed to play pinball machines. Nor is this fact sandwiched among bunch of legalese. Section 63-19-2430 of the Juvenile Justice Code reads straightforwardly, “It is unlawful for a minor under the age of eighteen to play a pinball machine.”
Well, then! Like North Carolina’s bingo restrictions, the pinball law has to do with gambling concerns.
South Dakota, along with Alabama and Mississippi, imposes a full grocery tax and does not offer credits or anything offsetting. On the other end of the spectrum, 32 states and D.C. exempt most groceries from any sales tax.
Huron outlaws the operation of devices that cause static (meaning “interference with television or radio broadcast receiving apparatus”) between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Exceptions exist for, “x-ray pictures, examinations or treatments … if the machines or apparatus used therefor are properly equipped to avoid all unnecessary or reasonably preventable interference with television or radio reception and are not negligently operated.”
There you have it. Stick to overnight hours if you wish to cause static.
Tennessee has annual sales tax holidays, as do many states. It is always interesting to see which items qualify as tax-exempt and which don’t. The holiday runs from the last Friday in July to 11:59 p.m. on the following Sunday.
Families jump at the chance to save money on back-to-school expenses such as clothes, school supplies, and computers. Tax-exempt items in Tennessee include school art supplies, computers and bundled software/accessories costing $1,500 or less for personal use, printers, corsets, bras and girdles, diapers (baby and adult), nightgowns, shoe inserts, long johns, and general-use veils.
Non-exempt items include belt buckles sold separately, breathing masks, bridal apparel (other than gowns and veils), printer supplies, many types of gloves, and hearing protectors.
The Volunteer State doesn’t permit teachers from discussing gateway sexual activities. Instructors could get in trouble for discussing hand holding or kissing.
If you purchase deodorant with antiperspirant, you’re in luck—no sales tax! Antiperspirants count as over-the-counter drugs, which aren’t taxed in Texas. If your deodorant contains perspirant, get your wallet out for the 6.25 percent tax.
No selling your eyes (or heart, kidney, or lungs!). Texas outlaws the purchase and sale of human organs, although, “hair or blood, blood components (including plasma), blood derivatives, or blood reagents” are A-OK.
The Beehive State imposes a 10 percent tax on everything a strip club sells, including bobble heads, keychains, drinks, and hamburgers. It’s called the “pole tax.” Club owners challenged the law, saying it was a freedom of speech violation since it targeted escort and sexually explicit businesses only.
The dispute wound up in the Utah Supreme Court. The pole tax prevailed in 2009, kind of, with the state court citing the U.S. Supreme Court: “Nudity is not an inherently expressive condition.” No freedom of speech violation.
The Utah court did find that the tax was unfairly applied to escort businesses, which could include tour guides in theory. Thus, only strip clubs follow it today.
State law allows for just one bar open per 10,200 people. As you might imagine, bar licenses are in high demand. Permit owners have even sold their treasure for more than $25,000.
Maple syrup is big in Vermont. In fact, the Green Mountain State leads all other states in its production. Still, the syrup doesn’t get special treatment in some ways. Consumers must pay a 6 percent tax for soft drinks and beverages containing the delicacy just as they would if their drinks contained sugar or honey. Maple sap water with no added sweeteners isn’t taxed, though.
Condo complexes and housing associations must allow residents to dry their clothes on clotheslines. That’s because clotheslines use less energy than running a clothes dryer.
In 2021, Virginia’s sales tax holiday is from August 6-8. It includes the usual school supplies, clothing, and footwear, along with hurricane preparedness items and Energy Star and WaterSense products.
State law used to ban racoon hunting with dogs on Sundays (at least after 2 a.m.). That changed in July 2019, although it remained illegal to hunt deer and bears with dogs. Hunter Glenn Cogle praised the shift, telling the Washington Post, “I can go get beer on Sunday and get drunk and kill you with my car. I can go to the racetrack and lose my house. Why can’t I go out in the woods with my dog and get a raccoon?”
The Evergreen State offers incentives to get residents to purchase electric vehicles. The federal tax credit of up to $7,500 sure doesn’t hurt, either. Washingtonians can also enjoy incentives to use clean alternative fuel and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
It’s illegal in Skamania County to kill Bigfoot, whether he or she goes by that name or Sasquatch, Yeti, or what have you. It used to be a felony but was later ramped down to a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. Word of caution, though: These creatures could turn out to be human enough that prosecutors bring much more serious charges.
If you search the county code, you’ll see that the Bigfoot law is not codified. The designation basically means it has the same effect as a regular law but hasn’t been passed through a legislative body.
Whatcom County also protects Sasquatch. That’s a good thing, given the sightings (on video!) in 2020.
Neighboring Virginia didn’t get rid of a similar law until 2020. Fines were decidedly higher, with a $250 maximum (the fine in 1792 was a mere 83 cents).
Wisconsin used to tax internet access. That ended in July 2020, although bundled transactions are still taxed. The federal Internet Tax Freedom Act had been permanently extended, forcing Wisconsin and six other states to end their tax on internet access.
Until 2017, Wisconsin did not permit the sale of home-baked goods such as candies, cookies, and Rice Krispies treats. The law lasted a strangely long time in a state that takes pride in its farm-to-table approach. New Jersey remains the only state with such a restriction on its books.
Beer excise taxes in Wyoming are the lowest in the country. Brewers and distributors pay just 2 cents per gallon. Next-lowest is Missouri’s 6-cent tax. Tennessee imposes the highest tax, $1.29 per gallon.
We’ll let the text of this law speak for itself: “A person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00) if he opens and neglects to close a gate or replace bars in a fence which crosses a private road or a river, stream or ditch.”
Be a good neighbor, be kind and considerate, and close these gates behind you.
Speaking of closing things, we’ve reached the end of our compilation of crazy taxes and laws. They may not be as nutty as they used to be, but some remain entertaining enough!