Unusual tax laws around the world

28th December 2021

Normally contractors have to ensure that they pay the right amount of taxes and that the correct tax deductions are applied in the country in which they are operating. On a less serious note, in the annals of history, there have been a number of wonderful, weird and downright wacky taxes and tax laws around the world that will hopefully bring a smile to your face. Here we bring you a fine festive selection of some of the funnier and frankly bizarre taxes that you probably won’t have heard of that once existed – some still do – in different countries from around the world.

In a bid to protect its trees amid deforestation concerns, China has imposed a 5% chopsticks tax to incentivise its citizens to use reusable instead of wooden chopsticks – currently, 25 million trees are used to produce 45 billion chopsticks. To their horror, cinema-goers and those wanting to pursue other forms of leisure activities such as visiting theme parks or exhibitions in India can be charged 28% in entertainment tax depending on the state. And talking about card tricks, the ace up the sleeve of the British government was a tax on playing cards and dice, which they rolled out until 1960!

To keep obesity levels in check in Japan, men and women in the 40 to 75 age bracket who exceed a waist measurement of 85cm and 90cm, will be subject to the country’s fat tax, known as the ‘Metabo’ law, which was introduced by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2008. Hungary too brought in its public health product tax in 2011 as the government decided to tax foods such as energy drinks and ready meals that are high in salt and sugar to promote healthy living. Almost three in four individuals did lower their intake of such foods. And if you are looking to save a bit of tax, don’t buy shelled nuts in Britain. Peanuts really but every penny counts!

The town of Conegliano in the northeastern region of Veneto, renowned for the much loved sparkling wine Prosecco, has implemented a shadow tax with local restaurant and shop owners having to pay around $100 if their awnings take away any light from public streets. Meanwhile bright sparks in the Balearic Islands – Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera – came up with the idea of a tourist tax known as the sun tax. Introduced in 2016, visitors pay up to €4 per day depending on the grade of accommodation with the money collected funding environmental and ecological projects.

Global tax laws of the stranger kind

Going back in history, the British have certainly had their fair share of shall we say interesting taxes, mostly levied at those with greater financial means. The window tax of 1696 was so unpopular that many removed their windows to avoid paying the extra tax. It was finally abolished in 1851 due to a lack of natural light and ventilation. Four years later and the knowledge tax targeted those who could afford to buy a newspaper, also suffered the same consequence, as did the hat and wallpaper taxes. Timepieces were also targeted in the clock tax by the penny-pinching authorities to penalise the rich.

Not to be outdone by its historic rivals across The Channel or ‘La Manche’, the French have also had some odd taxes that have left a bitter taste, among them the salt tax which was reintroduced by Napoleon and eventually banned in 1945. The sale of photocopiers and printers are subject to a tax of 3.25% although the proceeds go to support the work of the National Library and National Book Centre. But with no such beneficiaries apart from personal professional gain, any citizen requiring legal representation in court has to fork out €13 which goes towards topping up the lawyer’s pension.

Heavens above! Following the nationalisation of religious property, a church tax still remains to this day in Germany with churchgoers having to pay up to 9% of their total income tax bill, albeit this is a tax-deductible expense. Although it lasted until 1772, Emperor Peter I of Russia famously introduced a beard tax in 1698 as he deemed facial hair unfashionable. Beards have since been associated with the rich. Following in the footsteps of Augustus, the Roman Emperor, to this day the US state of Missouri still charges unmarried men who are over 21 and under 50 a $1 a year single tax.

Knights wanting to avoid wars and military service could do so by paying the so-called ‘scutage’ or cowardice tax which was introduced during the reign of King Henry I. Alas, no such opt-out though for present-day contractors who if they want to avoid potentially devastating battles with local authorities must meet their tax obligations and liabilities in the countries where they’re based.  If you’re unsure about compliance or any legal matters concerning your tax, employment, social security or immigration status, our 6CATS International experts are available as always to guide and assist you.

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