Monday, October 31, 2011

The Secret Halloween Tax Nobody Talks About

by Bill Adler

A flat tax. The 9-9-9 tax thingy. The Bush era tax cuts. Middle class tax cuts.  Talk of taxes is flying fast and furious around the nation. But today I want to write about a tax that's often overlooked, but is as unfair and inequitable as any tax: Parents who take a percentage of their kids' Halloween candy.

Despite my very liberal tendencies in every other sphere of life, economics and politics, I've been guilty of this excess, too. 

I've justified this behavior in different ways, but I realize now, after listening to heated debates over taxes by members of Congress, candidates for President, and even the DC City Council's agonizing over the municipal bond tax, that my justifications are morally bankrupt. 

I was wrong to take what was probably 10 percent of someone else's candy every Halloween.

I justified this tax because I felt that I earned it through the annual October 31st 5pm emergency trip to Strosnider's hardware store for some obscure part for a fairy or puppy costume. I thought that my exhibiting boundless patience in the face of, "That's the wrong color sock! I need a green one!" was reason enough to claim a few handfuls of Kit Kats and candy corn. I thought that 10 percent was fair given how our bedroom was turned into a sewing studio every Halloween eve. 

I even tried to justify my candy tax as a societal benefit. Taxes are, after all, not just about raising revenue, but are used to cut consumption of sinful or dangerous projects. I thought that by taking every 10th candy, I was saving my kids from a visit to the dentist. That's a noble goal, isn't it?  But I was lying to myself and to my daughters: The candy tax did nothing to protect their teeth.

The Halloween tax is often taken in secret, without full disclosure. The tax dad cometh, but he slyly hopes that his kids don't notice that the volume of sweets diminishes day by day. I was prepared to tell the big lie if my daughters noticed: The Tooth Fairy took the candy because she needed it when she ran out of quarters. 

I realized that I was completely wrong about the candy tax when I took a cold, hard, look at my actions: My tax only claimed Kit Kats, candy corn, Nestle's Crunch, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and peanut M&Ms. I never took gum, cherry flavored lollipops or red hot jawbreakers. I only taxed the good stuff.  Can you imagine if the government didn't just tax a percentage, but made you fork over your bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, too?  

I feel shameful. I feel guilty. But having tasted the sweetness of this particular tax, I'm afraid that I won't be able to stop.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, If you're feeling a void in your life, you can follow him on Twitter at @billadler. 

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