I'm the mayor of a large city, and I'm up for re-election. My poll numbers have slipped after a recent scandal (don't ask), so to make up ground, I need to appeal to my most vocal constituents: evildoers. In particular, they want me to take on the issue of superheroes.

Now, I've already made being a hero difficult in a lot of ways. There's a registration process, a nightmarish bureaucracy, and all sorts of checks by the police force. But one place there's still room for improvement is the tax code. Which brings me to my main question: What taxes can I impose to discourage superheroic behavior?

Some constraints:

  • I can't directly tax heroes without alienating my non-evil voters, so I need some plausible deniability.
  • Ideally, these taxes should primarily harm heroes without affecting villains or everyday citizens too much.
  • I want to target people who use their superpowers to fight evil. I can't stop people from having power, so I want to give them a monetary incentive to not be heroes (or better, to be villains).
  • Taxes do need approval, but the city government is in the pocket of Big Evil, so that won't be a concern.
  • The easier it is to scale, the better. If all goes well, it might even get me to the White House.
  • Thanks to the registration, heroes can't dodge taxes with secret identities.
  • People with powers are numerous and diverse enough that I can't just target one demographic. Thankfully, most don't choose to be heroes (and I'd like to keep it that way).
  • Heroes vary in power, but are generally on the weaker side.
  • The heroes earn a bit less than regular police officers. The police don't have superpowers to protect them, after all.
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    $\begingroup$ @hszmv I think you have more faith in voters than I do. I'd be more surprised if someone not evil got elected. And there's nothing to stop such a protest, but those vigilantes will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. $\endgroup$ – user53026 Aug 24 '18 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ This site doesn't have enough questions about taxation, that most banal of evils. I'm gonna make a tag about that. +1 $\endgroup$ – kingledion Aug 24 '18 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ @kingledion you're right, we don't have a tax/taxation tag... sonofagun... and yet it's as intrinsic to worldbuilding as anything else. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 24 '18 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnDoe: The Joker is on record as being up to date with all his taxes and never misses a deadline. He may be certifiably insane, but he's not crazy enough to to mess with the IRS. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Aug 24 '18 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnBode Thanks! I'm impressed with the creativity, and I sincerely hope no one here ever runs for office. $\endgroup$ – user53026 Aug 24 '18 at 20:33

19 Answers 19


Add a two tier tax that targets heroes doing property damage. First, a small flat tax for all heroes to help cover any damages incurred by villains and subsequent hero suppression of said villains. Its easy to propose such tax, a heroes job doesn't end until the city is restored, or so you claim.

The second tax is less talked about, gets easy approval, and is a huge boon for villains. A direct tax for heroes who damage property. Or you could call it a ticket or a fine, whichever works. Basically any hero who creates property damage has to pay this fee, and it makes defeating villains a lot harder, because now you have to avoid property damage while fighting. Heroes who can't avoid it will be taxed into oblivion, and you can even get rid of pesky heroes by sending waves of villains who can make them cause property damage.

Watch as your ratings go up, your city gets richer, and villains get even more villainous.

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    $\begingroup$ This. Average citizens would approve, and of course villains don’t have to pay it. After all if they’d just been allowed to take the jewels then no damage would have come to the bank at all!! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 24 '18 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ And even if the villains do cause damage during their capers, they're villains! No one really expects the bad guys to pay their taxes anyway. $\endgroup$ – Seth R Aug 24 '18 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ This appeals to the libertarian in me: all fines are taxes! Fines are taxes, permit fees are taxes, licensing fees are taxes, bail money for arrested unlicensed heroes is a tax, registration fees are taxes, required training fees (if you think that you don't need "training" to be a hero, you've obviously never tried to cut someone's hair in California) are taxes, the money to lobby the government in order to be a legitimate hero trainer is a tax. Just because it's not called a "tax" doesn't mean it's not a tax. $\endgroup$ – John Doe Aug 24 '18 at 17:55
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    $\begingroup$ One does not even need to make the tax on only superheroes - although the implication can be made clear in advertisements and conversations. Damage to public property requires a tax - period. If you are elected you can suggest to the judges to whom these cases come to let 'normals' off if it was an accident, whereas superheroes have a responsibility to use their enhanced power in a responsible manner. $\endgroup$ – Tracy Cramer Aug 24 '18 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ Don't call it tax, call it "insurance". Any hero who may damage property must carry insurance, paid to City Hall. When damage occurs, premiums go up. $\endgroup$ – Alan Campbell Aug 26 '18 at 7:56


Taxes take many forms for many reasons. Bear in mind, all monies collected by government for any reason is by definition a tax. And most importantly...

At city levels, most taxes (fees & regulatory codes) aren't seen or approved by voters. There's only a public meeting no one attends.

  • Impose a fee for dropping off criminals at the local jail and dead people at the local morgue.

  • Since superheros are taking policemen away from their normal duties, bill the superhero for the police's actual time + resource usage + depreciation of assets, and charge a fee on top of that.

  • Since superheros are taking the limelight away from the true heros of your town, charge them a fee for every appearance in the newspapers or any/all media campaigns.

  • Impose an annual fee to permit operation within, beneath, or above your city.

  • Impose a fee for certifying superheros as actual officers of the court and not simply vigilantes. Outlaw vigilantism (which already exists in most cities, btw, usually in the form of being illegal to "impersonate an officer").

  • Impose a luxury tax on all merchandising associated with superheros.

  • Pass building code regulation that requires superheros to make their residences absolute fortresses without appearing any different from any other building in the surrounding area. The code should mandate walls capable of absorbing a cruise missle impact, radar, underground vehicle access to secluded areas, etc. Make it as costly as you can imagine.

And then there's the taxes that make people hate the superheros. You know, "the price we pay as a society to enjoy the benefits of powered people."

  • Create a health care plan general insurance fund for the damage caused by superhero actions "for the sake of the people who are innocent victims of superhero necessity," tax everybody to fund it, then use it if the superhero so much as breaks a toothpick to justify the highest possible tax.

  • Create a "Superhero Legal Aid Fund" that supports legal representation of everyone affected by superhero activity (innocent bystander and criminal alike). Tax the snot out of the public to fund it and then use it to get your evildoers off the hook.

  • Create a "Superhero Identity Protection Fund" that is "necessary to protect the privacy of our superheros," ostensibly to help superheros protect their secret identities, then use it in the most inefficient way possible to hire as many people to do as little as can be conceived — like manually surfing analyzing Google for leaks. (Most governments should have little trouble implementing this — especially when pitched as a jobs-creation bill.)

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    $\begingroup$ These are evil. +1 $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Aug 24 '18 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ Double parked your Heromobile? Fine! Discharge of your unlicensed particle accelerator? Fine! Damage to building from your grappling hook? Fine! Scaling a building without safety permit from city? Fine! Flying over the city without proper FAA permit and license? Fine! Carrying concealed weapons in your utility belt? Fine, fine and fine! $\endgroup$ – Tam Aug 24 '18 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ I think the third point may be a First Amendment violation (in the U.S.). $\endgroup$ – CTMacUser Aug 25 '18 at 3:59
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    $\begingroup$ @CTMacUser, Yes and no, it's one of those ugly balancing acts. Consider the witness protection program (18 U.S. Code § 3521). It's illegal to use information from the AG's office (or any associated agency) and out a protected person, but if you knew them before, it's free speech to out them. But, to be fair, we're talking about a situtation that isn't real. I'm going to presume that superheros have previously secured protective rights to their secret identities. (Frankly, the legal structure surrounding traditional superheros would be nightmarish....) $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 25 '18 at 4:13
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH All the government dysfunction is fun, but I would actually be really into a question dealing with how you make superheroes work legally in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Random Aug 26 '18 at 0:20

I think you might underestimate just how powerful a weapon red tape can be. Why merely tax their money when you can also tax them with effort?

Announce that your economies drive has had the unfortunate local repercussion of some segments of the electorate having to bear a fraction(ahem) of the cost of necessary government administrative procedures. Now reform your tax code so that as to increase by an order of magnitude the number of papers needed to officially register as a hero. You can achieve this by blatantly displaying bloated and duplicated legalese all over.

Time to apply a variation of the Rhodesian solution. Ensure your forms are of shoddy make so that they're easy to accidentally on purpose damage or smudge over, in the name of cost savings of course. Make superheroes deliver them to government offices by hand and install a special superhero toll booth right outside your offices(sadly necessary because of austerity). Then stage a false flag attack on the paperwork itself that destroys it in a dramatic fashion. Claim that collateral damage from heroic action was responsible for the tragic loss of tree life, and apply hefty fines to assuage the doubtlessly outraged public.

So now the superheroes pay for all of the eleventy-hundred forms they need, they pay to get into the office they need to deliver it to, they pay when the forms gets 'destroyed by reckless vigilantes', and they pay for new forms when their applications are no doubt 'lost' in the bureaucratic machine somehow, and they have to pay to find out the status of their application. To deal with their complaints, set up an inquiry committee with broad terms of reference. Members are appointed but they'll never actually meet, but of course nobody needs to know that. You can implicitly suggest to the heroes that if they donate to you they'll get "reform" pushed through much faster. Yet another tax.

To power all this bollocks you're going to need an influx of staff to fill an army of non-jobs. So to top it off, present yourself as a governmental superhero for reducing overall expenditure while increasing state revenue and providing employment.

Superheroes shall tremble before the might of the most fearsome supervillain of all, the Uncivil Servant. This is bureaucracy, this is bureaucracy, spreadsheets scream in the dead of night...

PS: If you're evil why shouldn't you just screw over everyone good and evil alike? Line your own pockets, while you earn some political points through a firm and masterly display of showing the electorate lots of activity...while actually achieving absolutely nothing.

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    $\begingroup$ This is chillingly workable. Please, please, stay far away from politics and bureaucracy. $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Aug 25 '18 at 1:34
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    $\begingroup$ @mathreadler That makes them illegal vigilantes who can be hunted down by law enforcement. Ultimately, any form of tax or regulation runs the risk of pushing heroes to go rogue. Can't avoid that without changing the entire frame of the question. $\endgroup$ – nullpointer Aug 27 '18 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ @nullpointer but you would probably need someone as awesome as heroes in law enforcement to catch them. Evil villain super-cops? $\endgroup$ – mathreadler Aug 27 '18 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ Robin Hood was also hunted by tax guys. Yet he stayed a hero in eyes of people. Not everyone of the general population will believe that who is portrayed as a criminal is a bad guy. Especially not in societies who have seen how government and police can fudge up, become corrupted or pressured into badness. $\endgroup$ – mathreadler Aug 27 '18 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for "This is bureaucracy, this is bureaucracy, spreadsheets scream in the dead of the night..." $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Aug 28 '18 at 13:46

Forget taxes. Forget registration. Forget bureaucracy. Your strategy should be around licensing.

Taxes are painful, but superheroes just have to pay the government and move on. Similarly with registration fees. Relying on simple bureaucracy will leave you one, filling-out-forms-is-my-super-power superhero away from defeat. But, look at what you get with licensing:

  1. Bad guys get what they want: a barrier to entry for super heroes. You can even put some supervillains on the licensing board!
  2. Behavior of an unwanted (i.e., non-evil) kind can be condemned by the same licensing board.
  3. You have a good excuse to not alienate normal people (aka "normies"). "Look, I'm just trying to make sure that what superheroes we have know how to do their job well and won't cause unnecessary harm to innocent bystanders." You can probably get many upstanding citizens to help advocate for this as well.
  4. This is maybe the best part: once a superhero has done the needed superhero training, passed superhero tests, and gotten approved by the super-villain-populated superhero licensing board, they've invested quite a lot of time, and they need that investment to pay off. They probably won't want newcomers cutting into their superhero earnings. So the superheroes now have incentive to prevent other law-abiding, moral, super-powered people from becoming (or even calling themselves!) official superheroes. You won't need to do anything, your opponents will do your work for you.
  • $\begingroup$ I like this. You can also add that the hero must be certified from an accredited university, which they need to take out hefty student loans to get into... Since super-heroing doesn't pay much (less than police per OP), most superheroes need to find alternative non-goody-goody jobs to stay away from the debt collectors. $\endgroup$ – Dhara Aug 27 '18 at 14:49

Most taxes fall into just a few categories: income tax, consumption tax, property tax, estate tax, or capital gains tax. Some of these are unsuitable because they would either tax heroes too directly or not directly enough.

Income tax, estate tax, and capital gains tax would have to target heroes directly (i.e. different rates for heroes), so that's out.

Property tax wouldn't target heroes directly enough, unless they all tend to live in one district/area.

You might get some traction with consumption taxes. Slap a levy on spandex suits, capes, and high-tech crime fighting gadgets, and you're effectively creating a tax that only crime fighters will have to pay. Some villains will grumble about the higher price of their jet-black costumes, but tax evasion should already be in any good villain's repertoire anyway.

Another alternative to "tax" is to charge a hefty fee for hero registration. Charge $10,000 for registering as a hero, and you will certainly have fewer people doing so. You might wind up with a hero vigilante problem, however, as unregistered heroes continue to fight crime.

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    $\begingroup$ But vigilante heroes are criminals who don’t pay their taxes. Unlike Dread Lord Yuge. He pays his taxes every year and is the very model of an upstanding Citizen. Just ignore the death lasers. He’s got some good policies, honestly. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 24 '18 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ Consumption Taxes won't work because that will just give rise to a repeat of Street Clothes heroes who go into battle with jeans, t-shirts, and a hoody. And this will end up hurting the tourism industry as the cape and tights crowd generate better income than the guy who got a shirt with a square on it from Wal-Mart. $\endgroup$ – hszmv Aug 24 '18 at 16:44

Don't tax them, but rather pass a law that criminalizes collateral damage during super crime as a misdemeanor offense! This incentivizes both the hero and the villains to not engage in costly battles or take it out of city limits. It should not carry a hefty sentencing either. A minimum of a few hours of community service, a fine proportional to the damage caused, or jail time of one year. Thus, your Lawful Good super-strong flying brick types can be sentanced to clean up the abanodend warehouse district his fight destroyed (if he hasn't done so already), your brooding rich idiots with cool toy heroes and your capitalist CEO villains can make a donation to the city coffers to pay for the new Abandoned Warehouse District (if you can accept donations of valuable minerals, your Flying Bricks can also pay in formerly Coal type Diamonds), and you can give additional jail time to the truly destructive villains and please the Main Stream Media dislike of Arachnid Themed Super-Teens.

This will also help with both urban blight (Why do we have an Abandoned Warehouse District anyway? I mean, it's just a breeding ground for low income villains) and Urban Renewal projects (They always bring in cash in the form of Super-Sciance CEOs who want to do things for the betterment of people in the city... they bring cash and are the leading cause of and solution too all our Superhero Problems).

Plus, I hear these acts are wildly popular with the senior citizens, and they tend to show up at every Superhero/Villain fight for some odd reason.


I'm not sure a "tax" is appropriate or possible without affecting others that you don't want to target.

I think a better approach would be a fine instead. Impose a large fine and probable jail time for "interfering with the duties of law enforcement officers". Basically obstruction of justice. That will only affect heroes (who are caught) and not anyone else in the community. The more aggressive the law is and the bigger the punishment, the less likely people will want to risk it.

It just won't be worth being a hero at that point.

  • $\begingroup$ If I had seen the answer from @Clay Deitas I wouldn't have posted mine at the same time. That is exactly what I was getting at with the fine idea, but he put it more succinctly. Well done! $\endgroup$ – Tam Aug 24 '18 at 16:54

The simplest way to do this is to simply have a business registration fee for becoming a superhero. Since a superhero is quantitatively as well as qualitatively different from a toxic waste dump or other industrial concern, the fee structure will also be different.

Of course, there will be people like that Wayne character who will refuse to admit to being a superhero, and not register. Well, they are now in violation of the law, and can be fined and assessed damages for operating without a licence. The longer these vigilantes operate, the greater the accumulated fines and penalties, so when they finally do get unmasked.....

The other advantage of this is psychological, turning the people away from the very idea of superheroes. These so called "heroes" are not even fulfilling their basic civic duties by registering and paying a simple fee. What sort of person fails to fulfill a simple civic duty like that? A villain....thats who....

  • $\begingroup$ I feel like you didn't read the full question body. "Now, I've already made being a hero difficult in a lot of ways. There's a registration process, a nightmarish bureaucracy, and all sorts of checks by the police force. ... Thanks to the registration, heroes can't dodge taxes with secret identities." $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Aug 25 '18 at 1:30

Forget taxes, add buying insurance as part of the registration process (not any insurance will do, it has to be approved by the city). Have some of your evil rich friends run it. Over charge the insurance company, pocket some of the extra and pass the rest on under the table to the insurance board members.

Now you have law that everyone likes and it will have nothing to do with you when it starts cost the heroes time, money, and hassle.

  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity does your registration include finding out what their power is and what their Achilles heel weaknesses as in what magic green rocks take them down? $\endgroup$ – Diamond in the rough Aug 25 '18 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ The registration process requires heroes to list their powers (and the sources), but not weaknesses. I couldn't get enough political favor for that one. $\endgroup$ – user53026 Aug 25 '18 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ That's brilliant; and better yet it's scalable! You can force more and more powerful heroes to buy more and more expensive packages, citing their increased ability to damage city infrastructure. Play it smart and you can discourage the most powerful metahumans from even bothering, and further discredit the superhero field by filling it with halfpints. You even wind up forcing powerful heroes to pretend to be weaker to avoid going bankrupt. $\endgroup$ – Random Aug 26 '18 at 0:03
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    $\begingroup$ Exactly. The other thing I was thinking but didn't put in the answer is that you could indirectly fine the heroes doing the most good by charging a higher premium for the ones to who caused the most damage. (well actually it was the villains who caused the damage and heroes were just stopping the damage) $\endgroup$ – Diamond in the rough Aug 26 '18 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Heck, just building off the theme; you could even outright medicalize being a superhero. Force them to report for weekly sessions with a city psychologist. Make it mandatory they see a specialist every time they encounter a villain with toxic or radioactive powers, or even just one who uses "unknown energies" which ought to cover almost everything. Fund charity events for superhero medical outreach, with marketing campaigns that heavily imply they're unstable and barely human. You could also collect DNA samples and health information by corrupting a shortlist of city-licensed specialists. $\endgroup$ – Random Aug 26 '18 at 1:21


Force all heroes to join the Justice Union. Unions can impose their own dues and fines. They can impose rules for anything. They can make everyone be on probation for 2 years before being allowed to fully use their powers. They can give everyone their own territories, thereby preventing cooperation. They can limit the number of new applications.

Have a big heist planned? Union goes on strike! Any hero operating during a strike is immediately fined, license revoked, and jailed.

Have a dastardly plot? Force all union heroes to pull extra security duties at the press conference across town!

Heroes starting to rebel? Bog them down with years of contract negotiations!

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe it will turn them into super villains instead. And they will then be competition for your evildoer voters. $\endgroup$ – mathreadler Aug 26 '18 at 6:42

Along with the other comments, theres room for a lot of ways to financially force limits on superheros.

Registration is one thing you mentioned that could require a yearly fee, but you could have extra fees tacked on if they want to actually use their powers. A superhero license that requires a fee, along with training and tests that require fees. The argument being that having a natural talent doesn't mean you have the rights to use it. The education costs could be up there with college loans, leaving them in debt for long periods of time... which the government could "generously" wave if the hero decides to work for the government, with their rules in place. This would give the added issues of heros doing the bidding of evildoers as a matter of survival.

The license could also come with a requirement of liability insurance. Making it very expensive to want to do anything. You could also make requirements regarding any items that they need... supersuits, cars, etc... by only allowing them to be made by government inspected and approved vendors (who could also be in the governments pocket and make subpar equipment that needs to be replaced often.) Vehicles of any sort could require yearly inspections, like smog checks almost... then they would need to pay the inspector, and the fees to license the vehicle, pay state fees for anything really...

You could also impose limits to their power through fines if they speak against the government at all. Get the people on your side for that by saying that their added powers means that imposing their personal beliefs borders on threats... Abuse of power situation. You have to make the heros the enemy of the regular citizenship. If people think that heros are trying to force their own beliefs on them, they are more likely to be leery. Constant speech fines for abuse of power could lead to legal fees... like what happens if you have too many parking tickets...

Do what many dictatorships do and post lists of superheros that have caused harm, even if they stopped someone from getting killed... did they accidentally kill the perps and therefore obstruct justice or interfere with police matters? That's legal fees and bail that can be collected.

Start a "charity" for children whose parents were hurt by superheros. Make them seem out of control and risky... "think about the children". Added benefit to the obvious propaganda, donations from citizens.

As far as taxes, it could be a "peoples relief tax" only applied to registered superheros... or if they are a minor, their families. The fund would be in response to any damages that may occur in a fight situation or just "wear and tear" over some over blown science journal that says something about superheros having a genetic composition that causes more wear on streets and sidewalks (etc.)... it doesn't have to be true.

Regarding the minors and families... a kid's family is going to have to register their child as soon as they realize they have powers, and they will also have to pay that tax regardless of their own abilities. The registration fees for a minor can be higher, as children and teens can be more emotionally erratic. This would put a financial burden on the family that may make them not want to report their child... make it so that if it's found out they lose all property and the child becomes a ward of the state. This could also be a voluntary option for families with limited means, surrendering their child. This would probably be common, as all the financial stress would wear down any family, superheros would be something regular people would dread. As a ward of the state, the young superheros can be groomed however you like.

And getting really dark...There could also develop a type of test for pregnant women to determine if the baby is indeed a superhero or not. The test could be free if you do it voluntarily, and state mandated with a fine if the parents try to get around it. (superhero fraud?) This would lead to people aborting superhero babies... which you could think of a way to spin it "for the greater good" but also make those situations money makers with state approved centers "capable of handling" the -insert derogatory terminology- physiology blah blah

I think the key is to not only make it a burden to the superhero, but to society as a whole. You need your citizens to do some of the work of keeping them down as well. You may wind up with a homeless problem, which you could also work to your advantage as you can spin it as they are inherently worthless and lazy, as there was clearly the option of working for the government. (See, generous) This also may result in a boost in your approval ratings... as you are spinning things to make people believe that you are working in their interests.

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    $\begingroup$ Bonus points if the only people offering government mandated Superhero Liability Insurance is run by a secret cabal of super villains! Arbitrary and capricious rate increases!! $\endgroup$ – spade Aug 25 '18 at 9:02

Tax psychotherapy

Superheroes either need to pay more or turn into villains.

Many superpowered individuals have to constantly deal with their personal demons. With great power comes great insanity. Childhood traumas, huge pressure to fulfill ones responsibilities, post-traumatic stress disorders, struggle to feel socially accepted, being a danger to people around you, awful work/life balance, etc... The result of these crushing life circumstances is that most superpowerded individuals fulfill at least one DSM diagnosis. This should make psychological health care for superpowered individuals an important industry. Any superhero would be well-advised to meet with a professional therapist in regular intervals in order to better process the experiences they make on a daily basis.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you are Evil), many superpowered individuals do not seek professional help. The result is that many of them develop aggressive behaviors and a deep-seated hate for their environment. In other words, they become villains. In fact the majority of supervillains justify their criminal actions by some form of trauma or mental disorder for which they did not receive proper therapy. So making psychotherapy more expensive will not just increase the costs of living for the heroes. It will also turn more superpowered individuals away from therapy and towards a life of supervillainy.


Tax what the super-heros use would be my advice. You say your hero's are on the weaker side after all, If they need armour to be bullet proof tax that, if they need to move about in cars in the middle of the day then tax driving in off peak hours does specialised super-human healthcare exist in your world to take care of their enhanced bodies? if so tax it. These would likely be examples of indirect taxes, you wouldn't be taxing the superheros but rather the companies that supply them with gear. I'd especially advise a tax on lycra (perhaps on the grounds of "maintaining public decency"), sure cyclists will be annoyed too but there's always someone caught in the cross-fire.

you can also discourage superheroes by encouraging other powered jobs. The more you pay your super-human circus freaks, power-plant workers, specialist army officers, Etc... the less people are going to want to be a superhero (in theory.)

Also who pays the super-heros? Is it you? if so simply don't.

  • $\begingroup$ TANSTAAFL. He does these things out of the goodness of his heart? A likely story. propaganda department puts fake posts on social media about the hero’s real motive. $\endgroup$ – WGroleau Aug 24 '18 at 22:42

One critical aspect seems to be that super heroes are often in a hurry when trying to safe the world (or so); while this is also true for other people, super heroes are generally entirely capable of moving at very high speeds. So perhaps you should tax that?

Then again, using taxes for this is kind of hard. Maybe you can tax ownership of flying gear (as a luxury tax, right?) and then interpret their superpowers as flying gear. That is, for those superheros that do actually fly. For those that do not you may be able to extract a road tax proportional to the speed at which the road is used (causes comparatively more wear and tear, right?).

Besides, maybe you do not need any new laws; maybe enforcing those that you have strictly is sufficient. I am pretty sure, superman for instance violates aviation safety regulations. Note that there are a number of hilarious cartoons out there:

(I am not copying the cartoons in here because I am not sure whether that would violate copyrights. And I sure as hell don't want to be confronted by a copyright protecting superhero over this...)

  • $\begingroup$ Charge for airspace rights. $\endgroup$ – Wildcard Aug 25 '18 at 1:35

The heroes earn a bit less than regular police officers. The police don't have superpowers to protect them, after all.

Well, first of all, don't encourage them by offering jobs in the police if you don't want them to be "heroes".

... or, if that's too obvious, make it mandatory to be a certified police officer, than "have only budget" for a certain (low) number of superheros (absolutely up to your discretion of course, including especially their approved powers).
All other vigilantism remains prohibited with severe punishments.

... or do you actually hope to earn big on taxes coming from superheros instead of discouraging their despicable behavior ? (maybe bleeding them financially dry in the process?)

In that case, should a powered person pursue a superhero career / activity :

  • enforce an expensive, elitist license scheme allowing such a thing (have marketing create the "apple" for superheros, with hyped up perceived status, way overpriced fees and a decade long waiting list for good measure)
  • levy the usage of assigned air corridors for flying (punish all other non licensed airborne activities)
  • introduce a tax / fine for exceeding certain speed limits
  • enforce a mandatory (expensive and controlling) membership in a psi corp for all mental powers (coincidentally with such an institution you'll get access to villains with mental powers and may use them to "re-educate" powered persons interested in becoming superheros)
  • charge hefty cleanup costs after superhero battles
  • tax teleportation and telekinesis for some reason or another
  • get pharmaceutical and biotech companies (under your or your villain constituents control) to patent DNA segments associated with / required for powers and then have them charge license fees for using those powers (this could then result in denying superheros a license thus making the use of their powers illegal, the very least a civil court patent / licensing matter, locking them in a years long legal battle with expensive lawyers and multibillion corporations, of course prohibited to use their powers by cease and desist orders)

If you want to get rid of superheros you can also instigate slanderous campaigns and see how many you can get imprisoned with trumped up or legitimate charges (including tax evasion, preferably the taxes regarding vigilante activities)

All your taxes can very easily and vehemently championed for by justifying them as

  • "for the children(s safety)"
  • "for the environment"
  • "for citizen security"
  • "for health and safety"
  • "for traffic safety"
  • "for keeping the peace / public order"



Tax the hero identity and the secret civilian identity separately

If Superman and Clark Kent claim to be two separate people, then they both need to pay their taxes. Any income needs to be reported by both people and they both need need to pay the tax. So any income of Superman/Kent is taxed twice.

This, of course, also hits those villains who also have secret identities while it spares heroes like Jessica Jones who operate under their real name. But these are rather the exceptions than the norm.


Why tax them when you can force them to have licenses that require bonds

Treat them as functionally equivalent to a private investigator in terms of how they get permission to operate from the government.

  1. They have to attend mandatory classes / training.
  2. They have to have certain education and experience requirements (apprenticeships).
  3. They have to pass an exam that tests the things learned in 1 and 2.
  4. If they use weapons, they have to receive firearm training and separate licensing there (i.e. state concealed-carry permits).
  5. They have to apply for licensure. This includes a surety bond along with application fees, etc.
  6. They have to maintained that license, with annual fees.

The main point of the above to force them through a bureaucratic process that charges them incidental fees at various stages. No one fee is overwhelming, but taken as a whole, the process discourages do-gooders.

When presented to the public, you're fighting for improved safety and making sure villains don't masquerade as good guys.

The single greatest expense you find in that list will be surety bonds. This is where the hero must contract with an insurance company. That company has their own internal review process before agreeing to insure the hero. If the hero then does anything that violates the law, the bond pays for it.

This is a huge victory for your citizens and you, who have some assurances that if Batfish Man shoots up the neighborhood, someone will pay for the damages. And that someone isn't the tax-payer!

This also benefits the villains' front companies insurance companies who certainly will give massive contributions to your reelection campaign coffers and/or your completely legal PACs. Heck, you've created a whole new high-profit industry: hero bonds.

And the whole thing fits nicely into existing frameworks for how to license potentially harmful groups. So you've also made it easier to defend the new requirements from any legal efforts to block these rules. Because whomever pays SpiderMonkey-Man's legal fees can afford to attack your rules, so it needs a solid legal basis.

(It's also an expense that keeps the riff-raff out of the hero business.)

Maybe you'll end up with corporate sponsors to help offset the fees, like Captain Amazing in Mystery Men? If so, there might be further kick-backs you can personally profit from and/or ways the villains can take advantage of the situation. Imagine if Lexicon Lutherson used his vast dictionary business to fund Superduper-Man's hero bonds? What kind of hilarity would that cause?


I like the answer that uses damages as the basis for taxing. I'd like to take that further. Insist that all actions Superheros perform be subject to liability laws including civil suits.

If a villain or bystander is injured directly or through loss of income, they are free to sue the superhero for those losses. They should also be able to get multiple damages if they can show carelessness or malicious use. If the superhero is unable to pay directly, they must use their powers exclusively to work off the debt.

That approach highlights the damaging aspects of superheros and can be an effective negative publicity campaign in itself.


Do what countries with very restrictive gun laws already do to citizens who apply for firearm permits.

You said there is already a registration process for superheroes in place. Add a series of medical examinations to it, and of course the applicants have to pay for it, and of course these examinations can only be done at the medical facility selected by the government (so the price can be arbitrarily set, without having competition).

Add a long waiting period. The waiting period can be shortened by paying a fee.

Increase the types of tests required drastically. You want to make sure they are not a danger to themselves and society, right?

And of course, these tests have to be retaken every year.

Also make them take regular courses in medical, firefighter etc, training, and have them pay for these courses.


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