On Taxes and Licenses

A tirade against taxes, recently posted on Facebook, recalls something I encountered several years ago when I sought information from my home state about professional licensing.

The Facebook post, which sets out initially to describe the scale of the number one billion, contains the following (unedited) list of taxes and “fees” (a euphemism for taxes). I make no attempt to polish the list or add other examples that I can think of; its author has done enough:

Building Permit Tax
CDL License Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Tax
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax,
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
School Tax State
Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal State and Local Surcharge Tax
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
(And to think, we left British Rule to avoid so many taxes)

The author of the original post containing this list had set out to complain that politicians, who can’t appreciate the magnitude of a billion of anything, especially dollars, also cannot appreciate the torrent of taxes that they have poured onto the population.

That tirade reminded me that, when I was HR administrator in a hospital in Maine, we contemplated adding a specialty to our services (diagnostic or therapy — I forget which — that was back in 2006-2007). I wasn’t sure what the license requirements were, so I began calling departments in state government. One referred me to an on-line list. I later copied the list for my own amusement, having noticed that even the professional licenses that I carried (Registered Maine Guide and Commercial Boat Operator) were not on the list, not to mention my fishing license, hunting license, and driving license.

No single office of state government maintained or currently maintains a complete list of occupations and activities that require a license in the state. A department (silo) can speak only for the professions or activities regulated by that department. I wrote up my frustration in a single-page rant in January, 2007 (attached). Oddly, professional wrestlers were on the list but not professional lobbyists. When I wrote it up at the time I added the URL for the state’s web page that listed the subject professions. That page is no longer available, but a new page is, so I have added that new URL to the rant as well.

The state’s 2023 list now omits wrestlers and still forgets to mention lobbyists. Clam diggers and lobstermen fail to make the list, (try doing either in Maine without a license!), but transient sellers and land surveyors are on both the 2007 list and the 2023 list. In 2007, the state’s list didn’t include optometrists or registered nurses. (Both needed to be licensed then but merely failed to make the state’s published list.) Now they’re both in the on-line list.

I submit to you that Maine’s ignorance of its own licensure requirements would be reflected in an inability to provide a complete list of taxes that the state imposes, as surely no office in the state, if asked, could tell you what federal taxes you are also subject to. (Ah, but the state doesn’t collect federal taxes, so…) Yes, the state does collect federal taxes on many levels. When I license my car the state collects a federal excise tax, which it presumably turns over to some agent of the federal government. You also pay a federal exise tax when you buy tires.

Never mind that you will never find an office of the federal government which can provide a complete list of taxes and fees that you may be assessed if you choose to do something that will cost you one of its penalties. Never mind that you will never find an office of the federal government which can provide a complete list of activities that require a license from the federal government.

Neither a state government nor the federal government, I submit, can apprise you in such a way, but both can charge you with a violation or charge you an assessment when you do anything more than breathe. One feature of human intelligence is self-awareness. That lack of self-awareness on the part of your government at every level is self-condemning.

=David A. Woodbury=

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