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U.S. pockets $20.6 billion in sin taxes


Menthol flavored cigarettes are displayed in a store in New York March 30, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Menthol flavored cigarettes are displayed in a store in New York March 30, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans armed themselves to the teeth and paid through the nose to have a smoke, according to a U.S. government report released on Wednesday.

The U.S. federal government collected $20.6 billion in taxes on alcohol, tobacco, firearms and ammunition in fiscal year 2009, up 41 percent from the previous fiscal year, according to the annual report of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Part of the U.S. Treasury Department, the TTB credited most of the $6 billion rise in revenues collected to the increased taxes on the tobacco industry as a result of the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act passed in February 2009.

There was also a spike in tax collection from the sale of guns and ammunition, said the report from the agency that has an annual budget of $99 million.

In October 2009, firearms and ammunition excise tax collection climbed 45 percent from the previous fiscal year, the greatest annual increase in the firearms tax revenue in the agency's history, the report said. By comparison, the average annual increase for fiscal years 1993 to 2008 was 6 percent.

A Gallup Poll conducted in early October 2009 said one possible explanation for the surge in gun and ammunition sales could be that more than 50 percent of the Americans who owned guns and some 41 percent of all Americans believed that President Obama would "attempt to ban the sale of guns in the United States while he is president."

Obama, who supports reauthorizing the ban on assault weapons but has not made a push to do so, did sign a law that included allowing people to bring guns into national parks this past February.

The U.S. government's fiscal year begins on October 1 of the previous calendar year and ends on September 30 of the year with which it is numbered. The latest TTB report covered the period between October 1, 2008, and September 30, 2009.

It was unclear why the agency included the guns and ammunition information from October 2009. Calls and e-mails to the TTB seeking clarification were not immediately returned.

(Reporting by Leslie Gevirtz; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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