There’s nothing like the talk of tax to raise the British blood pressure, and with an election in the offing the politicians are under pressure to avoid policies likely to crumble as quickly as George Osborne’s ‘pasty tax’. But while you’re grumbling about VAT, income tax and potential changes to inheritance duty, count your blessings that you’re not a Danish farmer with a bovine flatulence tax to deal with!
When it comes to ludicrous levies, us Brits have had our fair share, with the likes of printed wallpaper, hats, salt, windows and televisions all falling foul of the Tax Man’s beady eye. From 1100 – 1216AD there was even a tax on ‘cowardice’, imposed upon landowners who wished to avoid military service. However, research by London Chartered Accountancy firm, Howlader & Co, has revealed that the fiscal ingenuity of the Great British Chancellor pales when compared to their global cousins, who have come up with some creative corkers in a bid to squeeze extra pennies out of their respective populace.
Take America. The sale of illegal drugs is, well, illegal, and yet some bright spark decided that all those high-flying criminals would obediently do their duty and pay tax on the heroin, cocaine and meth they were pedalling. Then in Maryland we have residents spending more than a penny – $60, in fact – to flush their toilets. And if you want to tether your hot air balloon or buy fruit from a vending machine, then you’d better get your wallet out! All that before Donald Trump even came to power!
Bizarre those taxes may be, but they are comparatively harmless when you move your gaze to China, where in 2009 local government officials in the Hubei province were ordered to start smoking in an attempt to raise tax revenues. The aim was to get through a quarter of a million cigarettes during the course of that financial year, never mind the health implications for the members of the cabinet.
Another strange one is Germany’s preparedness to offer tax deductions on bribes – a practice which remained entirely legal until 2002. While in Peter the Great’s Russia (going back a few years now – 1682-1725) hirsute citizens found themselves bound into fiscal contributions with the purchasing of a “the beard is a superfluous burden” token – imagine the revenue to be raised from today’s hairy hipsters!
In short, if there’s one thing to be learned from Howlader & Co’s analysis of the 80 strangest taxes from around the globe, it’s that wherever and whenever you are, there’s nothing more certain than death and crazy taxes.