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Let Mattel You about Barbie’s Taxes

3 min readBy: Kyle Hulehan, Zoe Callaway
This is part of our educational blog series, “The Short Form,” to simplify taxA tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities. issues and explore the world through the lens of tax policy. Learn more about taxes with TaxEDU.

In the utopia of Barbieland, life is easy. Everything you need is readily available, and you can party, dance, and hang out with your friends all day. It’s no wonder Barbie’s trip into the real world is quite a shock.

In Greta Gerwig’s new Barbie movie, Barbie’s venture outside of Barbieland introduces her to conflict, judgment, work, and (gasp!) flat feet. But as all of us in the real world know, Barbie has even more to think about as she navigates human adulthood: taxes.

From the glitz and glamour of Barbieland to the hustle and bustle of LA, Barbie’s latest accessory might be a tax bill. According to our Facts & Figures 2023 report, California has the second highest tax collections per capita in the nation, which means Barbie’s tax dues could climb higher than her stilettos.

Shop ‘til You Drop…An Extra Band in Taxes

California’s state sales taxA sales tax is levied on retail sales of goods and services and, ideally, should apply to all final consumption with few exemptions. Many governments exempt goods like groceries; base broadening, such as including groceries, could keep rates lower. A sales tax should exempt business-to-business transactions which, when taxed, cause tax pyramiding. rate is 7.25 percent, and, with a maximum local sales tax rate of 2.50 percent, its average combined state and local sales tax rate is 8.82 percent.

As a certified fashionista, Barbie is almost guaranteed to shop at high-end stores in LA. When she strolls Rodeo Drive, she may find a new dress, new heels, and a designer bag to die for. If she spends, say, $10,000, then the sales tax would bring her shopping spree total to $10,882.

Doctor Barbie, Newscaster Barbie, Astronaut Barbie

Barbie has had over 200 careers, including flight attendant, nurse, engineer, and astronaut, just to name a few, but Barbie’s most challenging role in LA might just be a part she never auditioned for: taxpayer.

California, like the federal government, has a graduated individual income tax with rates ranging from 1.00 percent to 13.30 percent. In this case, her career would determine her tax burden by placing her in different brackets. And the more money she makes, the more she’ll pay in taxes. Who knew success could be so taxing?

A Barbie Girl in the Real World

How many taxes Barbie could face depends on her journey in the real world. When she refuels after driving into our world, she’ll pay over $0.77 per gallon in taxes. And though she won’t have to pay a vehicle property taxA property tax is primarily levied on immovable property like land and buildings, as well as on tangible personal property that is movable, like vehicles and equipment. Property taxes are the single largest source of state and local revenue in the U.S. and help fund schools, roads, police, and other services. in California if she keeps her pink convertible, she will have to pay property taxes if she buys a new Dreamhouse.

The list of potential taxes might be longer than a red carpet at a Barbie premiere. If these tax burdens are too onerous for Barbie’s budget, she might just call “cut!” on her LA scene, pack her pink convertible, and head back to Barbieland—or perhaps set her GPS for a more tax-friendly state.

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