I live in Philadelphia. And I do pay a lot of taxes.
Pennsylvania’s Governor Wolf introduced his budget last week. And in it he proposed an increase in spending, no pension reform, no long-term deficit reduction and no cuts in costs. And although he’s lowering business and real estate taxes, there are proposed increases in our state income and sales tax. Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter introduced his budget recently. And he wants a 9 percent property tax increase (oh, and good luck with that). Now the mayoral candidates are talking about a plastic bag tax.
And why not? We Philadelphians are used to taxes. It’s no big deal.
In fact, depending on whether you live and/or work and/or run a business in my city, you might be paying as many as 44 different taxes, fees and tariffs every single year — maybe more! Don’t remember them all? Who could blame you! So here’s a list to refresh your memory. And please let me know if I’m leaving anything out. I’m definitely forgetting something, right?
1. Federal income tax. Of course we all know about this. If you’re making $50,000 a year you’re in the 25 percent tax bracket, before any exemptions or deductions. Of course the rate goes up for you dirty, filthy, wealth types living la vida loca in your mansions and champagne filled pools.
2. Federal capital gains taxes. Besides income, if you’re fortunate enough to have investments and choose to sell them your rate is 20% of the gain. President Obama wants to increase that rate to 28 percent.
3. State income taxes. They are currently at 3.07 percent. Governor Wolf wants to increase to 3.7 percent.
4. Sales taxes. In the state the sales tax is 6 percent on everything we buy. Governor Wolf wants to increase to 6.6 percent. Don’t forget you pay an extra 1 percent for the pleasure of buying something in the city of Philadelphia.
5. Cigarette and alcohol taxes. Smoking and drinking are bad for you. But c’mon, it’s pretty damn fun. Unfortunately smokers and drinkers are subject to extra taxes above and beyond those NPR-listening, granola-head, health nuts who are always ruining the party.
6. City of Philadelphia income tax. That’s around 4 percent depending on whether you’re a resident or non-resident of the city.
7 – 9. City of Philadelphia school, property and transfer taxes. The mayor increased property taxes a few years ago. Now he wants to raise them again. The governor wants to decrease them. But we’re still paying them. Property tax rates are currently about 1.25 percent of market values. And let’s not get into the 4 percent realty transfer tax imposed on buyers and sellers of property in the city too, OK? Oh, and don’t forget there’s a school tax rate of 3.924 percent on unearned income too.
10. City of Philadelphia dog license. Many of us have dogs because they’re so cute and sometimes you feel like they’re your only friend in the world, particularly when you’re being bashed on Twitter like me. But we pay a dog license fee of between $16-$40 to the city. Friends aren’t cheap nowadays.
11 – 12. Parking tickets and residential parking fees. Yeah, that’s indirect, right? But go ahead — you try and battle the Philadelphia Parking Authority if you’ve been given an undeserved ticket. It’s impossible and not worth the time so you, like me, probably just pay it. And if you have a car in the city, you’re likely paying the city to park it — whether it’s on the street or in a garage.
13. Tolls. With EZ Pass we sometimes forget that every time you ride the turnpike you’re paying a toll, which is just another form of state tax. And once the state figures out that it’s a simple mathematical calculation to determine the speed you’re traveling based on when you enter and exit the turnpike, look for more automatic tickets to be delivered to your door.
14 – 17. PECO tariffs. PECO is our utility company and they charge a tariff (that’s a tax!) on our energy consumption. I tried to figure out how this is calculated and spent a few agonizing minutes reading this document. Go ahead — you explain it to me. I have a college degree and am a Certified Public Accountant and I can’t get past the fifth page. However, if it helps, here’s a sample PECO bill where you can check out the three typical “charges” for generation, transmission and distribution and then add on the “state tax adjustment” as the cherry on the top.
18. Taxes on Philly amusements and sporting events. Like the Eagles? Hate the Phillies? And hate those high ticket prices? Well, included in those prices is a 5 percent admission charge tax assessed on the teams (which they pass through to their fans) by the city. It’s just one more reason to boo.
19. Taxes on Philly hotels. Look for an 8.5 percent surcharge on any romantic night you want to spend in a Philly hotel.
20 – 31. Cable taxes. Watch TV? Go on the Internet? Like to pay taxes? Then you’re gonna LOVE your Comcast bill which has no less than 12 (did I miss anything?) taxes on it: A Regulatory Recovery Fee, Universal Connectivity Charge, State and Local 911 Tax, Federal Excise Tax, State and Local Sales Tax, Gross Receipts Taxes, State and Local Utility Taxes, State Communications Services Tax, Local Communications Services Tax
32 – 37. Business taxes. Want to operate a business in the City of Philadelphia? Prepare to pay an income and receipts tax, an outdoor advertising tax, a valet tax (I am not kidding), a mechanical amusements tax (keep it in your pants guys, it’s for vending machines), a net profits tax and a use and occupancy tax.
38 – 42. Permits. Want to enjoy the great outdoors or take a spin on a beautiful day? Then you’re paying drivers, hunting, fishing and motor vehicles plate and vehicle registration license fees to the state, right? Right!
43 – 44. Gas Tax. In Pennsylvania, we also pay $0.70 in state and Federal taxes for each gallon of gasoline we purchase. Hmm, maybe those arrogant Prius drivers are on to something.
So go ahead, Governor Wolf, Mayor Nutter and whoever our next mayor will be. Keep spending. Keep growing that government of yours. Keep funding those outrageous pensions. And by all means, keep those taxes coming. Philadelphians are used to it all.
A version of this column previously appeared on Phillymag.com.