Weird Taxes Throughout History

December 28, 2014 Law Research

Governments around the world have been using taxes since ancient times as a way to earn money for city projects, armies, public assistance, and much more. Over the centuries, governments have come up with interesting ways to tax its citizens. Here are some funny and creative taxes that have been in place throughout the world:

 

In India, women at one point were charged a breast tax if they wanted to cover their chests while in public. One brave woman cut off her breast in protest to the tax, and passed away due to the amputation. Thankfully, the breast tax was then ended.

russian beard tax

The Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, made an interesting tax law in 1698. He imposed a beard tax. This tax placed large fees on those who wanted to grow facial hair. In his defense, beards were “out of style” in Europe at the time, and not many men were seen with large amounts of facial hair. Thank goodness this tax is not in place now that beards are the newest men’s fashion trend.

 

In 1660, England created a tax on hearths or chimneys. The people of England, who loved their hearths, found creative ways to hide them to avoid paying the tax. In 1684, a baker tried to use his neighbor’s chimney and started a fire that burned 20 homes. It was then that England repealed the hearth tax.

 

England also had a tax on playing cards in 1710. This lead to a lot of playing card forgery, which caused more trouble that it was worth. Today, Alabama still has a 10-cent tax on every playing card deck sold, and when you complete your tax return in Nevada, you get a free deck of playing cards.

salt tax

Have you heard of the salt tax? In fact, it was a tax placed on salt in France that helped spark the French revolution. It was eventually eliminated in 1790. People take their salt very seriously.

 

Due to strict regulations, ancient Egyptians used to pay a tax on cooking oil. All oils could only be purchased from the Pharaoh’s stock. It was also illegal to re-use oil even if you purchased it legally.

 

Here is a very interesting tax. In Rome, urine was a commodity in the 1st century. It was used for cosmetic products, chemical procedures, whiten togas, and much more. Because of this, there were urine collectors who charged people a tax to those who purchased the prized fluid.

British window tax

Have you heard of a window tax? Once again, England created a weird tax.  English builders tried to include as few windows as possible to avoid being taxed more. There were so many homes with so few windows that it eventually started to cause health problems due to lack of ventilation. However, this tax lasted for 150 years and finally ended in 1851.

 

In the 1880s, Canada charged a tax on people, specifically Chinese immigrants coming into the country. The tax was called the Chinese Immigration Act, and was thankfully banned in 1923.

 

England loves creating taxes. They even have a tax for TV sets. Every household pays a tax for the number of televisions owned in the home. Color TVs pay higher taxes too. The tax then funds BBC. So if you plan on moving to the UK, prepare for a TV tax.

cow flatulence tax

Finally, the funniest tax would be the tax on cow farts. In Denmark and Ireland, farmers are taxed for the methane gasses that are created by cattle flatulence. It roughly costs $18 per cow in Ireland, and $110 per cow in Denmark.

 

Although these taxes are funny and weird, taxes are put in place for many important reasons. Without taxes, the government wouldn’t be able to pay for road damages, public assistance, the military, and other needs of the country to keep it running smoothly. At least we can look back and laugh at these funny taxes now.

 
What weird or funny tax do you think could happen in the future?

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