With the current fractious political climate, a General Election looming and seemingly endless gloom and uncertainty around Brexit we could all be excused for taking life very seriously at the moment. This is especially so where taxes are concerned.

So, with the festive season fast approaching, for my blog article I thought I’d try to offer a little light-hearted relief by taking a look at some of the more obscure, unusual and even downright bizarre taxes from around the world, past and - strangely enough - present. Here are my top 10.

1. Cow Flatulence Tax

Ireland and Demark have imposed a cow flatulence tax equivalent to $10 per cow in Ireland and $110 in Denmark in an attempt to limit greenhouse gases.

2. Stolen Property Tax

The USA Internal Revenue Service instructions indicate you should list any stolen property gained during the previous year on your tax return. In order to not incriminate yourself it should be shown in the “any other income” section.

3. Urine Tax

In the first century A.D. the Romans imposed a tax on urine, mainly from the sale from public urinals.

4. Beard Tax

In 17th century Russia, a beard tax was introduced to encourage men to adopt a Western European clean shaven look.

5. Printed Wallpaper Tax

In the 1700s, the UK imposed a tax on printed wallpaper. This was circumvented by builders hanging clean paper and painting patterns on the walls instead.

6. Aromatic Powder Tax

In 1795 England imposed a tax on the aromatic powders men and women put on their wigs and this led to a dramatic decline in the popularity of wigs.

7. Shadow Tax

The Italian town of Conegliano charges a tax of €100 a year for shopkeepers whose signs create shade on the public walkway.

8. Chopstick Tax

The Chinese government charges a 5% tax on wooden chopsticks in a bid to stop its forests being cut down.

9. Hat Tax

Late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century British Prime Minister William Pitt introduced a tax which required a hat to have a revenue stamp pasted inside its lining. This was taken very seriously at the time and anyone caught forging a hat stamp faced the death penalty.

10. Baby Name Tax

Currently in Sweden there is a tax for giving your baby a name that is not already in use. 


For advice on your personal taxation affairs, please contact a member of our specialist Personal Tax team or your local Thomas Westcott office.

Phil Butterworth, Partner