Weird Tax Facts From Around the World

Let’s talk taxes. Now, hold on, don’t groan! We’re not diving into boring deductions or scrambling to meet filing deadlines. Today, we’re enjoying the wacky, weird and downright bizarre world of international taxes.

You know those things you pay that sometimes make you wonder, “What were they thinking?”. We’re talking taxes on things you wouldn’t even believe, from historical beard bans to modern-day cow…emissions (yep, you read that right).

Weird, Wacky and Downright Bizarre Taxes Around the World

Weird, Wacky and Downright Bizarre Taxes Around the World

Ditch the stress, grab a seat — it’s time for a tax adventure!

Sunshine Tax

The “Sunshine Tax” in Italy is an extra fee some cafes charge for using public space with their outdoor seating. Basically, you pay a premium for that perfect people-watching spot under the Italian sun. So, next time you grab a cappuccino outside, remember — sunshine isn’t always free!

Brick Tax

The British taxed bricks in the American colonies to pay for war debts. Builders got creative, though, and began increasing the size of their bricks and using more wood instead—think log cabins! This tax backfired because fewer bricks meant fewer fancy buildings. It was scrapped in 1850, but not before it left its mark on colonial architecture.

Waste Tax

France has a “Waste Tax” where you pay based on how much garbage you throw out. This is a big incentive to recycle and compost more. Think of it as a reward for reducing your trash mountain – and your bill!

Window Tax

In 17th century England, the “Window Tax” charged you more for having extra windows. It was a tax on wealth. The idea being that people with more income generally live in nicer houses, and nice houses generally have more than two windows. But people got creative, bricking them up to save money.

It’s not exactly good for light or air, but hey, you gotta save on taxes! This wacky idea finally got scrapped in 1851.

Playing Card Tax

Believe it or not, Spain has a long and interesting history of taxing playing cards. This goes all the way back to the 16th century. It seems even a simple deck wasn’t immune to the tax collector’s hand.

So, the next time you’re in Spain and fancy a late-night game of brisca with friends, remember there might be a small fee for the privilege of playing.

Urine Tax

In ancient Rome, emperors implemented a unique tax known as the “vectigal urinae,” or urine tax. This tax levied a fee on collecting and selling urine from public toilets.

Urine held significant value in Roman society. Its ammonia content made it a crucial ingredient in various industrial processes — textile cleaning, leather tanning and even teeth whitening. Public toilets collected large quantities of urine, which was then sold to various industries.

The urine tax provided a steady stream of revenue for the Roman treasury. However, the practice was eventually discontinued.

Being a Coward Tax

During the English medieval period, a system known as scutage allowed knights to avoid military service for a fee. This fee, though derisively nicknamed the “cowardice tax,.”

Initially, the scutage represented a way to opt out of military service with a financial contribution. Over time, it evolved into a general land tax levied on knights.

The scutage system offered advantages for both the crown and the nobility. The crown gained a reliable source of revenue for warfare. The knights with legitimate reasons to avoid service could contribute financially.

Beard Tax

In 1698, Russia’s Peter the Great wasn’t a fan of facial hair! He introduced a “Beard Tax” to encourage men to shave.

The tax structure varied based on social class, with wealthier citizens facing a higher burden. Resistance to the tax was significant, with many adhering to the traditional practice of beard-wearing. It even led to the forceful shaving of some tax evaders.

Ultimately, the Beard Tax was abolished.

Clock Tax

In 1797, Britain tried a wacky tax – taxing time itself! They hit people with a “Clock Tax” on watches and clocks.

With rates varying based on the type and material — standard watches incurred a yearly fee of two shillings and sixpence, gold watches ten shillings and clocks five shillings.

However, the Clock Tax proved unsuccessful. Public resistance was high, with individuals concealing their clocks or refraining from purchasing new ones. This significantly reduced revenue collection. Additionally, the tax disproportionately impacted clockmakers and watchmakers. Consequently, the Act was repealed in April 1798.

Hat Tax

The British government implemented a hat tax in 1784 to raise revenue through a progressive tax system. The assumption was that wealthier citizens would own more and more expensive hats, making them a suitable target.

Heavy fines for non-compliance led some hatmakers to attempt to avoid the tax by rebranding their creations. However, the government expanded the tax to encompass all headwear in 1804.

This “hat trick” of taxation was short-lived, with the repeal of the tax in 1811.

Blueberry Tax

Maine loves its wild blueberries! They’re a huge part of the state’s agriculture, and Maine wants to keep it that way.

The state levies a tax of one and a half cents per pound on harvested wild blueberries. This revenue is directed explicitly towards research initiatives and sustainable management practices within the industry. It also acts as a gentle deterrent against over-harvesting, promoting responsible resource management.

Google Tax

In a bold move, France taxed online ads displayed by tech giants like Google and Facebook. This “digital tax” is expected to raise up to $29 million a year to fund French artists and cultural initiatives.

The policy’s implementation has been attributed to former President Nicolas Sarkozy. He championed its potential to create a sustainable funding stream for French culture and paved the way for its global adoption.

However, some reports suggest personal tensions might have influenced the move. Sarkozy previously criticized Google’s digitization of French art, which he perceived as threatening France’s cultural heritage.

The long-term impact of this tax and its potential influence on international policy is yet to be seen.

Cow Flatulence Tax

New Zealand once considered a “Cow Flatulence Tax” to tackle methane emissions from, well, cow burps and toots. This tax targeted methane produced by cows through their digestive processes, a significant contributor to greenhouse gases.

The goal was to incentivize farmers to adopt sustainable practices to reduce methane emissions. While the proposal sparked debate, the tax ultimately wasn’t implemented.

Candy Tax

In Chicago, flour-filled treats like cookies and ice cream are taxed at a regular rate, but straight-up candy (think gummy bears and lollipops) is taxed an extra 5.25%. The same goes for drinks—the amount of soy, milk, or juice can mean a higher tax at checkout.

Stormwater Charge

Ever wonder where rainwater goes in Toronto? The city charges a Stormwater Charge to help manage it! You pay a fee based on the amount of hard surfaces (like roofs and driveways) on your property.

This approach aims to align the cost of stormwater management with the properties that generate the most runoff. In the long run, preventing flooding and protecting water quality in Lake Ontario.

Dog Tax

Ever wonder if your pup owes taxes? In some parts of Switzerland and Germany, they do! It’s a “Dog Tax” that varies by location and breed.

The revenue generated supports canine-related initiatives like dog parks, waste management programs and animal shelters. In essence, it’s a way for dog owners to contribute directly to the well-being and care of dogs in their communities.

Tax Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Tax Facts You Probably Didn’t Know


South Carolina has a unique tax incentive! Meat processors get a $50 tax deduction for donating processed deer to charities that feed people in need. It’s a win-win: processors get a tax break and those in need receive valuable protein.

    Kansas has a strange tax law for hot air balloons. If the balloon stays tethered to the ground, it’s considered an amusement and gets taxed. But if it takes you on an actual ride, it’s not taxed.

      The IRS lets you deduct the cost of a doctor-recommended wig as a medical expense. However, hair transplants, regardless of the reason for hair loss, are generally considered cosmetic surgery and not tax-deductible.


        Switzerland has a long history of bank secrecy. In 1934, they made it a crime for banks to reveal a client’s identity. This strict law has made Switzerland a magnet for offshore wealth.


          Swedish law requires government approval for all children’s names before they turn five. If you miss the deadline, you could face a fine of up to $770.


            Believe it or not, bribing someone used to be legal in Germany (until 2002)! These bribes were once tax-deductible as long as you named names. Germany closed this tax loophole in 1999 and outlawed bribery altogether by 2002.


              In a bizarre attempt to boost tax revenue during a financial crisis, China briefly forced citizens to buy cigarettes or face fines in 2009. This backfired, creating a dependence on tobacco sales and potentially contributing to China’s massive smoking problem.

                Decode Taxation and Compliance with doola

                So, there you have it! A whirlwind tour of the strange and wacky world of taxes. Governments worldwide have devised some pretty unusual ways to fill their coffers.

                While these quirky tax laws might seem like relics of the past or publicity stunts, they all highlight the constant evolution of taxation. Understanding and adapting to changing tax laws has challenged citizens everywhere.

                Looking for a more straightforward way to manage your taxes and finances? doola can help! Book a free tax consultation today — we’ll answer your questions, guide you through the filing process and ensure you take advantage of every deduction and credit you deserve.

                doola's website is for general information purposes only and doesn't provide official law or tax advice. For tax or legal advice we are happy to connect you to a professional in our network! Please see our terms and privacy policy. Thank you and please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.

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