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If Washingtonians have learned anything during the past decade, it’s that nothing in District life is certain except death and taxes. D.C. may have surrendered its title of “Murder Capital, U.S.A.” to New Orleans, but rest assured that Mayor Marion Barry and his colleagues haven’t lost their skill at lightening wallets. Anybody who’s ever lived or done business here can testify that nothing—and we mean nothing—escapes the watchful eyes of the District tax man. Get your palm read, buy a salami, give a lecture, take a bride, or kick the bucket—the District grabs a piece of the action. (You think those free matches are free? The D.C. Treasurer doesn’t.)
The idiosyncrasy of the District levies is surpassed only by their breadth. A search of the D.C. code and municipal regulations turned up 116 separate taxes and fees, and that doesn’t include a myriad of subcategories. Relax, open your checkbook, and count the ways in which you render unto Marion.
Abattoir license fee
Accountant license fee
Alcoholic beverage tax
Ambulance license fee
Amusement places license fee
Apartment house license fee
Athletic exhibitions and grounds license fee
Auctioneer license fee
Auto rental fee
Bakery license fee
Barbershop license fee
Baseball game license fee
Bathing house license fee
Beauty parlor license fee
Billiard and pool table, bowling alley license fee
Boarding house license fee
Bottling establishment license fee
Candy manufacturer license fee
Carnival license fee
Circus license fee
Clairvoyant license fee
Closing out and damaged goods sale license fee
Club license fee
Coin-operated device license fee
Concert license fee
Commission merchants in food license fee
Convalescent home license fee
Cooperative association license fee
Corporate and franchise tax
Cosmetology school license fee
Dairy license fee
Dance license fee
Deed recordation and transfer tax
Delicatessen license fee
Detective license fee
Dry cleaning and dyeing establishment license fee
Economic interest tax
Elevator license fee
Employment parking space fee
Fair license fee
Food dealer license fee
Football game license fee
Frozen dessert manufacturers license fee
Funeral directors and embalmers license fee
Garage license fee
Gasoline, kerosene, and oil fees
General sales tax
Grocery store license fee
Guide license fee
Health care provider fee
Hearing aid dealer license fee
Hearse license fee
Home improvement contractor license fee
Hotels, inns, and other transient lodging places license fee
Hotel occupancy tax
Ice-cream manufacturer license fee
Individual income tax
Insurance agent, broker, and solicitor license fee
Insurance gross premium tax
Laundry license fee
Lecture license fee
Livery stable license fee
Loan broker license fee
Marriage license and related fees
Massage establishments; Turkish, Russian, or medicated baths license fee
Mattress manufacturing, renovating, sale, and storage license fee
Milk and milk products fee
Money collectors license fee
Motion picture license fee
Motor fuel tax
Motor vehicle dealer license fee
Motor vehicle driving schools license fee
Motor vehicle excise tax
Motor vehicle registration fee
Motor vehicle rental fee
Motor vehicle repossessor license fee
Newspaper vending rack fee
Painting and lacquer proxylin storage fee
Parking establishments license fee
Parking lots attendant fee
Pawnbroker license fee
Personal property tax
Petroleum storage fee
Pet shop license fee
Pharmacist and pharmacy license fee
Photographer license fee
Public scales license fee
Public utility gross receipts tax
Real estate broker license fee
Real property tax
Rooming and boarding house license fee
Restaurant license fee
Sales finance company license fee
Second-hand merchandise dealer license fee
Shooting gallery license fee
Skating rink license fee
Slot machine license fee
Solicitor license fee
Solid waste collection fee
Storage tank license fee
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Swimming pool license fee
Taxicab license fee
Theater license fee
Tire recycling fee
Toll telecommunications gross receipts tax
Tow truck license fee
Transporter of hazardous materials license fee
Vendor license fee
Weapons dealer license fee
Profiles in Avarice: Taxes, Annotated
Abattoir license fee: Owners or proprietors of abattoirs or slaughterhouses, by whatsoever name called, shall pay a license fee of $100 per annum.
Alcoholic beverage tax: There shall be levied, collected, and paid on all of the following named beverages manufactured by a holder of a manufacturer’s license and on all of the said beverages imposted or brought into the District by a holder of a wholesaler’s license, except beverages as may be sold to a dealer licensed under the laws of any state or territory of the United States and not licensed under the chapter, and on all beverages imported or brought into the license in the manner hereinafter provided:
(1) A tax of $.30 on every wine-gallon of wine containing more than 14 per centum or less of alcohol by volume, other than champagne, sparkling wine, and any wine artificially carbonated, and a proportionate tax at a like rate on all fractional parts of such gallon….
Athletic exhibitions and grounds license fee: Baseball, football, and athletic competition owners or managers of grounds used for baseball, football, or other athletic exhibitions to which an admission fee is charged directly or indirectly, shall pay a license fee of $17 per annum.
Billiard and pool table, bowling alley license fee: Owners or managers of establishments where bowling alleys, billiard or pool tables, or any table or alley upon which legitimate games are played shall, where they are operated or conducted for public use, or for profit, or gain, pay a license tax of $39 per annum for each such alley, board, or table.
Carnival license fee: Owners or managers of carnivals or fairs by whatsoever name called conducted for profit or gain and not held in any building or structure licensed under this chapter shall pay a license fee of $158 per day.
Clairvoyant license fee: Mediums, clairvoyants, soothsayers, fortune-tellers, palmists, phrenologists, by whatsoever name called, conducting business for profit or gain directly or indirectly, shall pay a license tax of $550 per annum.
Corporate and franchise tax: Except as exempted under Subchapter II, for the privilege of carrying on or engaging in any trade or business within the District and of receiving income from the sources within the District, there is levied:
(1) For the taxable years beginning after December 31, 1975, a tax at the rate of 9 per centum upon the taxable income of every corporation, whether domestic or foreign, except that effective October 1, 1984, the rate of tax shall be 10 per centum upon the taxable income for any taxable period….
Employment parking space fee: Effective March 22, 1995, a $20 per month fee is imposed upon each “employment parking space” located within the District.
General sales tax: A tax is imposed upon all vendors for the privilege of selling at retail certain tangible personal property and for the privilege of selling certain selected services (defined as “retail sales” in this chapter). The rate of such tax shall be 6 per centum of the gross receipts from the sales of or charges for such tangible personal property and services….
Book matches: The gross receipts from the sale of book matches to be used or consumed for any purpose other than resale shall be subject to the tax including gross receipts from the sales of book matches where the matches are given free of charge with cigars, cigarettes, or other tobacco products….
Morticians: Receipts from sales of tangible personal property by morticians such as caskets, appurtenances, grave vaults, and clothing shall be subject to the tax, even though personal services (such as embalming and providing delivery services and other equipment in conducting funerals) are rendered in connection with the sale of these items….
Receipts from the sale of the following appliances are taxable regardless of the conditions of design or construction (the list is not all-inclusive, and the taxability of any item not appearing on the list should be determined by reference to the other provisions of this section or by comparison to the listed items):
(a) Abdominal supports, kidney supports, and uterine supports;
(b) Obesity supports, maternity supports, and postoperative supports;
(c) Trusses, athletic supporters, suspensories, and thumb protectors;
(d) Surgical shoes
(e) Elastic goods, such as stockings, thigh pieces, leggings, elbow caps, knee caps, wristlets, anklets, arch supports, or bandages;
(f) Ear correction caps;
(g) Eye shades and shields
(h) Mouth breathing prevention devices
(i) Artificial breasts
Guide license fee: No person shall for hire guide or escort any person through or about the District of Columbia, or any part thereof, unless he shall have first secured a license to do so. The fee for such a license is $28 per annum.
Ice-cream manufacturer license fee: Owners or managers of ice-cream manufacturing establishments shall pay a license fee of $1,050 per annum.
Marriage license and related fees: For each marriage license, the fee shall be $2; for each certified copy of a marriage license return, the fee shall be $1; for each certified copy of an application for marriage license the fee shall be $1; and for registering authorizations to perform marriages and issuing certificate, the fee shall be $1.
Massage establishments; Turkish, Russian, or medicated bath license fee: Owners or managers of massage establishments and Turkish, Russian, or medicated baths shall pay a license fee of $300 per annum.
Mattress manufacturing, renovating, sale, and storage license fee:
(a) Persons engaged in the business of manufacturing or renovating mattresses shall pay a license fee of $238 per annum.
(b) Owners or managers of establishments where mattresses are stored, sold, or kept for sale shall pay a license fee of $17 per annum.
(c) Within the meaning of this section “mattress” shall be deemed to include any quilt, comforter, pad, pillow, cushion, or bag stuffed with hair, down, feathers, wool, cotton, excelsior, jute, or any other soft material and designed for sleeping or reclining purposes.
Motion picture license fee: Owners or managers of theaters in which moving pictures are displayed, for profit or gain, shall pay a license fee of $415 per annum.
Shooting gallery license fee: Owners or managers of shooting galleries shall pay a license fee of $10 per annum.
Solicitor license fee: Solicitors shall pay a license fee of $158 per annum. Any person who goes from house to house, or place to place, within the District of Columbia, selling or taking orders for, or offering to sell or take orders for goods, wares, merchandise, or any article or thing of value for future delivery or for service to be performed in the future or for the making, manufacturing or repairing of any article or thing whatsoever for future delivery, and requiring or accepting a deposit for such future delivery or service, shall be deemed to be a “Solicitor,” within the meaning of this section.
Vendor license fee: Persons licensed under this section shall be vendors designated and required to pay a license fee, as follows:
(1) Class A—for people who vend food from public space, but not from door to door, $130 per annum.
(2) Class A Temporary—for people who vend food from public space, but not from door to door, for a period of not more than 5 days, $55 per period.
(3) Class B—for people who vend merchandise other than food from public spaces, but not from door to door, $106 per annum.
(4) Class B Temporary—for people who vend merchandise other than food from public spaces, but not from door to door, for a period of not more than 5 days, $43 per period.
Compiled by Paul Coleman, Alex Ferreíra, Rhonda Henderson, Sridhar Pappu, David Plotz, and Megan Reilly