Taxes on Fireworks: Is Your State a Dud?

A handful of states impose special excise taxes on the sale of consumer fireworks.

It's not really the Fourth of July without the flash, boom and crackle of a good fireworks display. Some people love the crowds and grandeur of a big-city extravaganza, while others prefer a community display at the local volunteer fire department. Then there's the backyard fireworks master who provides an Independence Day show for the neighborhood. If that's you, then it's time to stock up on the roman candles, bottle rockets, sparklers and other pyrotechnics you'll need for an unforgettable display. Just beware the explosive tax bill that some states impose!

In 2018, the U.S. pyrotechnics industry raked in $945 million in consumer fireworks sales (plus another $360 million in sales to professional pyrotechnicians). It's hard for some state lawmakers to see those types of revenue figures and not want a piece of the action for their state's coffers. Most states have resisted the temptation, but five states have slapped state-wide excise taxes on the sale of fireworks. Their special "fireworks tax" rates range from 5% to 12%—and that's on top of the regular state and local sales taxes imposed where the fireworks are sold. If you're spending hundreds of dollars (or more???) on your backyard fireworks display, the extra taxes can add up quickly. If you live in one of the states that impose a special tax on fireworks, it might be worthwhile to drive to another state where taxes on firecrackers aren't as high. The extra cost for gas could be far less than the taxes you'll save.

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Rocky Mengle

Rocky Mengle was a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger from October 2018 to January 2023 with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, Rocky worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky holds a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.