Taxes have been around a long time, and because we’re so used to paying them, most of us don’t really give them much thought. They’re simply a part of life.
But like the history of window tax, learning about different taxes around the world is surprisingly interesting. Looking at taxes that were around in the past that we thankfully don’t have to pay anymore is even more fun.
Here are the most crazy and unusual taxes around the world. Some of these were around a long time ago, but still not before plantation shutters – as the history of window shutters will tell you.
1662 – 1689
Two shillings for each fireplace or stove was the tax Parliament levied on the British people to support the Royal Household of King Charles II at £1,200,000 annually. This tax was resented by the people as it permitted the tax assessor to enter your home for inspection at any time.
1784 – 1850
Taxed at 4 shillings per thousand bricks, this tax funded the war in the American Colonies. Masons manufactured larger bricks to alleviate the tax, which prompted Parliament to restrict brick sizes and raise the tax to 5 shillings and 10 pennies. New buildings were made from lumber and weatherboarding, instead of bricks, which ultimately led to a repeal of the brick tax and the English construction economy took a boost as a result.
Stolen Property Tax
The IRS’s 1040 instructions indicate that you should list any stolen property gained during the previous year. However, since this would be self-incrimination, which is protected by the Constitution, you may report stolen property as “other income”.
2009 – 2013
In Durham County, NC, you must declare your pets as personal property, obtain a license and pay an annual fee. Spot and Fluffy’s taxes were $10 each if spayed or neutered, or $75 each if they weren’t fixed.
1696 – 1851
This was considered to be a fair tax by the British Parliament, since the rich had larger homes and thus more windows. However, the people avoided the tax by bricking up windows, which led to health problems and the eventual repeal of the window tax over 150 years later.
1946 – Current
If you own a TV, you must buy an annual TV license to support the BBC – £145.50 for colour and £49.00 for black and white. Even if you are blind, you must pay half the annual fee! Failure to pay can result in criminal penalties. In 2012 there were 155,000 convictions for TV tax evasion.
2013 – Current
Ten counties in Maryland will be paying for any structure that prevents rainwater from soaking into the ground – sidewalks, roofs, patios, driveways and more. This tax is supposed to support the Chesapeake Bay by preventing rainwater run-off. The tax rate is calculated and enforced by satellite imagery. Ironically, government buildings are exempt from the rain tax, while churches and non-profits aren’t!
1784 – 1811
This tax was intended to raise revenue for the government in accordance with each man’s wealth, as it was supposed that wealthy men bought more hats. The tax was imposed on both the seller and buyer, with stiff fines for tax evasion. The death penalty was even used for those who forged the tax license at a business or a stamp inside hats! Understandably, the hat tax eventually made men’s hats unpopular.
2009 – Current
If you’re buying California fruit from a vending machine in California, you’re subject to a 33% tax. Ouch. Don’t ask why anyone would buy fruit from a vending machine.
1712 – 1836
Painted, printed or patterned wallpaper was taxed at one penny per square yard and in 1809 that rose to one shilling per yard. In today’s currency value, that’s £3.07 per yard. Like most taxes, the people found a way to circumvent it – buying untaxed, plain wallpaper and stencilling or painting it themselves.
Sliced Bagel Tax
2010 – Current
A whole bagel is only subject to sales tax in New York. However if a bagel is altered – sliced, toasted, served with toppings or eaten in the store – you are subject to an additional 8 cent tax.