Tax isn’t the easiest thing to understand. In fact, sometimes, it’s absolutely nonsensical.
Below we take a look at some of the most bizarre tax rules from around the world because, well, why the heck not?
Hot Air Balloon Tax
OK, so if you live in the US, we’ve found a tax loophole. If you sell your house, and move into a hot air balloon, you won’t be subjected to tax on it.
There’s a catch though.
You have to fly around. Constantly.
In the States, an airborne hot air balloon falls under the same tax relief as airlines, whereas one tethered to the ground is subjected to an ‘amusement tax’ as in, ‘this is now classed as an amusement’ not ‘this tax will make you giggle’. Tax doesn’t make anyone giggle.
Peter the Great was a 6-foot-8 Russian Tsar, with facial tics and a tiny head, who loved Europe. He loved the culture. Loved the fashion. Loved the food.
He wanted to modernise Russia, and in turn, make it more like Europe, but there was one thing holding him back.
The thing was, European men didn’t have beards. Russian men did.
So, the natural thing to do to encourage people to shave off their facial rugs was to tax them. Heavily.
That way, if you were going to embarrass the motherland with fox’s tail hanging off your chin, you’d be lining the Tsar’s pocket too.
If you read any tabloid, you’re guaranteed to stumble across an article about the world getting fatter.
There’s an obesity epidemic, apparently.
With that, you almost expect things like the sugar tax to come into force, gently encouraging people to stop eating more chocolate cake than Bruce Bogtrotter, but Japan took it one step further.
They taxed inches.
Men and women with waists larger than 35.5’’ are given dietary advice, but, if they don’t stick to it, they’re force-fed a bigger tax bill instead.
In 1696, some bright spark under King William III decided the best way to determine whether someone was wadded, and thus subjected to more tax, was to count how many windows their home had. The logic (if you can call it that) was that the wealthier a person is, the bigger the house, and therefore, the more windows it has. Apparently, it was kinder than income tax, and easier for UK constituents to get their head around.
In fact, it was so easy for them to understand, it didn’t take rich people long to work out that bricking up windows would reduce their tax bill.
Cow Flatulence Tax
Although tax on bovine methane gas emissions is enforced throughout the European Union, Denmark trumps them all with a whopping DK600 (£71) per cow.
Danish farmers aren’t at all happy, given that they’re pumping more money into the reduction of greenhouse gases than their industrial counterparts. Their argument was, given that the tax is all about reducing harmful fumes, no matter how much you tax a cow, it won’t make it fart any less.
Whenever a new baby is born in Sweden, the parents must submit a name request to the Swedish Tax Agency before the child turns 5.
In protest, a couple attempted to name their baby Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, which was swiftly rejected, although the names ‘Metallica’ and ‘Google’ were approved.
After several unsuccessful attempts to raise new revenue by taxing pornographic movies, Italy increased the duty on all hardcore adult films to 25% in 2005.
There was some stiff resistance from those within the porn industry, but Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government took a hard line, needing all the cash it could lay its hands on to combat the country’s deficit.
If you live in Arkansas, and you fancy getting a needle shoved through your lip and paying for the trouble, you’ll be subjected to a sneaky sales tax.
Although the state thinks body modification via needles should be taxed, it doesn’t feel the same about body modification via a kick in the head by a horse, giving admission to rodeos a decent bit of tax relief.
Cereal Toy Tax Break
We all remember the joy of digging through a new box of cereal as a child, our grubby little hands contaminating the waves of grain-based nourishment whilst searching feverishly for a small figurine.
Well, in Canada, it turns out those companies sticking tiny, plastic choking hazards into their breakfast bran, get a nice little tax break.
Cooking Oil Tax
Tax collectors have always existed in some form. In ancient Egypt, scribes would audit households to collect a tax on cooking oil, a product that could only be bought from the Pharaoh’s own reserves.
If citizens were found to be using too little oil when cooking meals or, gods forbid (see what we did there), using something else to cook their food, the scribes would beat them into next week with a cane.
The Roman Empire
In the 1st century AD, Roman emperor, Vespasian, placed a tax on urine. Pee pee from public urinals was sold to be used in industries such as tanning and, no, the Romans didn’t rub themselves in wee to give their bodies a sun-kissed glow. Tanning is the chemical process used to create leather.
It was also used by launderers who used the ammonia to clean and whiten their dirty washing.
Who’d have thought piddle was such a valuable commodity.
Chinese Head Tax
During the mid-19th century, thousands of Chinese immigrants took the lengthy trip to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway, a massive transport link to British Columba.
Not only were Canada’s eastern visitors paid half as much as other workers, they were also expected to pay the Chinese Head Tax, which taxed the entry of Chinese immigrants into the country.
They had to shell out anything up to $500, which was absolutely bonkers given that they only earned around $1 a day.
If you enjoyed this, you might like to read my article, ‘A Guide to Ridiculous Accounting Jargon & the Firm of the Future‘.