DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Department of Revenue is taxing jack-o'-lanterns this Halloween.
The new department policy was implemented after officials decided that pumpkins are used primarily for Halloween decorations, not food, and should be taxed, said Renee Mulvey, the department's spokeswoman.
"We made the change because we wanted the sales tax law to match what we thought the predominant use was," Mulvey said. "We thought the predominant use was for decorations or jack-o'-lanterns."
Previously, pumpkins had been considered an edible squash and exempted from the tax. The department ruled this year that pumpkins are taxable — with some exceptions — if they are advertised for use as jack-'o-lanterns or decorations.
Iowans planning to eat pumpkins can still get a tax exemption if they fill out a form.
The new policy, published in the department's September newsletter, has some pumpkin farmers feeling tricked this Halloween.
"I don't mind paying taxes, but let's get real here, people," said Bob Kautz, owner of the Buffalo Pumpkin Patch in Buffalo, about eight miles west of Davenport.
Kautz, who has owned his farm for seven years, was particularly dismayed with the notion of requiring customers to fill out a form verifying that they planned to eat the pumpkins they were buying.
"It's another crazy, crazy, stupid thing," he said.
Kautz said he will estimate how many pumpkins were bought for non-food purposes, and then will send the tax on that amount to the revenue department.
"It gets unfeasible for people to have small businesses," he said.
Danny Carroll, who owns Carroll's Pumpkin Farm in Grinnell with his wife, said he will have to pay the sales tax out of profits.
"Essentially, they just reduced our income by 6 percent," he said. "It's too bad, but it's not surprising."
Other Iowa pumpkin sellers also expressed confusion about the new policy. Some, like Carroll, said they were unaware of it. A few said they have been charging the tax this Halloween season and few customers have complained. None said they are asking customers to fill out the tax-exemption certificate.
Mulvey said department officials don't know how much extra revenue to expect from the pumpkin tax.