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Is It Time to Tax Violent Video Games?


 Where Could the Proposed Tax on Violent Video Games Lead?

Cigarettes are taxed, alcohol is taxed, and in some states, sugary drinks like soda are taxed at higher rates than other food. These so-called sin taxes "target behavior that harms others." Money generated by these taxes typically goes toward social and health programs.

Now a Missouri lawmaker has suggested a tax on video games. Representative Diane Franklin (R) would like to see a one percent sales tax added to "violent video games rated teen, mature, and adult only."  

The tax is reportedly in response to last year's horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, in Connecticut. Rep. Franklin would like to put funds generated by the tax toward "mental health programs and law enforcement measures to curb mass shootings."

Some have called the representative from Missouri "out of touch," noting that there is "absolutely no link and no evidence that the Sandy Hook shootings came about because of video games, much less violent video games." Others are glad that "someone wants to do something," even if violent behavior can't be directly linked to violent video games.

Certainly a tax on violent video games won't go unchallenged. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) fought a similar proposal in California last year, and, after taking the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court, won. California's attempts to regulate the sale of violent game ended up saddling the state with healthy legal costs, and ESA has said that "[t]axing First Amendment protected speech based on its content … will end up costing Missouri taxpayers."

"Similar legislation to tax violent video games failed in Oklahoma and New Mexico in recent years." (The Huffington Post).

photo credit: Dunechaser via photopin cc

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Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.