Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sin Tax

As of today, Washington State has a bunch of new taxes to help close its budget gap. Most are taxes on indulgent pleasures (what was once called a "sin tax"): candy, beer, cigarettes, soda. All are causing the usual hue-and-cry from both attackers and defenders, but the most confusing by far is the candy tax. What constitutes candy? While I personally only deign to notice those items containing chocolate, the legislature has adopted a definition that mostly hinges on the presence or absence of flour. If a confection contains flour, it not candy and therefore exempt from the tax. This means there is no tax on licorice, Twix, Kit Kat, or a regular Milky Way bar. There is a tax on M 'n M's, Tootsie Rolls, truffles, and a Milky Way Midnight bar.

Science fiction is an indulgent pleasure for most of us. If it were going to be taxed, the legislature would first have to define it, something that endless panels at endless cons have so far failed to do satisfactorily. The law might therefore go the if-it-contains-flour route, and define anything as SF if it includes, say, an element from a skiffy list: Aliens. Robots. Space Ships. Artificial Intelligence. Thus:

Paolo Bacigalupi's WIND-UP Girl is exempt from tax.

Greg Benford is taxed for nearly everything except TIMESCAPE.

All STAR TREK novels are taxed until the heat death of the universe.

Mike Flynn is taxed for WRECK OF THE RIVER OF STARS but not for some of his short stories.

The Heinlein and Asimov estates close the entire budget gap in Seattle.

I am taxed for STEAL ACROSS THE SKY but not for BEGGARS IN SPAIN.

Lawyers get rich off court cases about SARAH CANARY -- was she or was she not an alien?

You see the possibilities for civic revenue, plus lots of entertaining shouting. So who's going to call the legislature?


John Nicholas said...

Can't we just tax everything with a vampire in it?

marcinko said...

To be followed by PAC ads featuring a whiny customer in a bookstore:

"It costs so much these days to keep my family entertained. And now the bureaucrats in Washington want to tax our Stephanie Meyers and Sookie Stackhouse? What are they thinking? Call your Congressman to make sure he votes no..."

Nancy Kress said...

I love the PAC ad!

Orion said...

Hmmm. I predict that flour will be appearing on the ingredients list of many confections soon.

And I'm with you, Nancy. I don't deign to notice anything except chocolate (preferably dark).

Anonymous said...

The shortest answer is doing. ............................................................

goblinbox said...

These taxes should be on all items that contain subsidized crops - corn (high fructuose corn syrup) and soy. The reason junk food is so cheap is because the ingredients are subsidized by the government. There's no reason a head of broccoli should cost more than soda.