Britain has a reputation for bizarre taxes; from our 18th-19th cCentury window tax, a cunning sleight at wealthy mansion-dwellers, to our 1784 tax on hats, which led milliners to conceive other names for their headgear, it's fair to say this reputation is well founded.
While these extinct taxes are fairly well-known, less explored are the peculiar tax laws in effect today. The taxes on this list are all recent or current taxes from around the world.
In the UK, when celebrities name their babies after fruit (Apple), mythical creatures (Pixie) and numbers (Harper Seven), we barely bat an eyelid. But that's not the case in Sweden; thanks to their strict Naming Law, all names must go through the Swedish Tax Agency and names that do not make the cut are rejected and, in some cases, the parents are fined.
The law was originally designed to prevent ordinary families from naming their children after nobility. Nowadays, it addresses the (more important) problem of parents giving their children names that are just plain ridiculous. Specifically, '[f]irst names shall not be approved if they can cause offense or can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it'.
The most famous name that failed to make the grade was Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, pronounced 'albin'. The child, who was named in protest against the Naming Law, was 5 years old before his parents submitted their registration. Needless to say, their first choice was rejected, so they tried to change it to A (also pronounced 'albin'), but were turned down once again and fined.
Swedish heavy metal fans will be pleased to learn that a decision to ban the name Metallica was lifted in 2007, while search engine fanatics can express their love of Google on their kids' birth certificates.
To the outrage of Danish and Irish farmers, environmental scientists proposed a tax on the methane produced by livestock: in other words, a tax on cow farts.
According to the estimates of the UN Food and Agriculture Association, our windy animals are responsible for 14% of greenhouse gas emissions. Each of the 1.4 billion cows worldwide produces 500 litres of methane every day.
Taxes of 13 euros per animal in Ireland, and as high as 80 euros in Denmark, were discussed.
On online forums and Twitter, farmers kicked up a stink that would have made even their cows jealous. The Irish Farming Association warned that the industry would move to South America to avoid the charges.
Eventually, the proposals were dropped and the cows were left to go about their business tax free.
Artist Tax Allowance
If the cow flatulence tax had gone ahead, at least Irish farmers could have considered a career change: resident artists have a personal tax allowance of up to 250,000 euros per year! Irish rockers U2 returned to their roots in 2006 for this very reason.
Mooncakes are traditionally served at the mid-Autumn festival, one of the most important celebrations in the Chinese calendar. These delicacies consist of a thin pastry crust filled with a red bean or lotus seed paste and egg yolks, which represent the full moon.
Mooncakes and mooncake coupons are also given out as favours by employers to their staff. When the Chinese government realised that the sweet treats were being used as a kind of currency, they imposed 30 billion ruan worth of tax.
Until 2009, honest drug dealers in Tennessee were expected to pay tax on the illegal substances they sold, um, illegally. The bizarre law, which has been nicknamed the 'crack tax', applied to drugs from marijuana to crack cocaine and even moonshine. The dealer was expected to pay anonymously at the state revenue office where they were issued with a stamp as receipt. If they were caught 'working' without a stamp, their substances were fined.
The state collected millions of dollars in crack tax; unsurprisingly, most of it was through confiscation rather than voluntary payment. The law was repealed in 2009 after it was deemed unconstitutional to force criminals to (effectively) turn themselves in.
As you can see, it's not just Britain that has its fair share of bizarre tax laws. Wherever you go in the world, it seems that the government has the uncanny ability to spot a lucrative tax opportunity.
Save money: slice your own bagels.
Tax laws courtesy of Strategic Tax.