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10 Unusual Things People Were Taxed For

These are the most peculiar things people were taxed for: 

Taxes, taxes, taxes. Unfortunately, we can’t get rid of them. Everyone anticipates paying taxes, but what exactly should they pay? All of us are accustomed to paying taxes on our salaries, purchases, addictions, and other things.

It was reportedly remarked by Benjamin Franklin, “There are two main things in life: death and taxes.” Regarding this statement, he was absolutely correct, but I believe he underestimated how certain taxes are.

This article is about the other side of the coin, seeing taxes on a funnier note. Let’s discover together what the most unusual things people were taxed for were:

things people were taxed for
Photo by Jeppe Gustafsson from Shutterstock

1. In Sweden, birth names need approval or payment of a tax

One of the things people were taxed for was naming your baby. By the time a kid turns five, Swedish parents must get every child’s name authorized by the national tax office. If they don’t, they risk a fine of up to 5,000 kroner, or, depending on exchange rates, $601–$700.

Many individuals initiated demonstrations because the government maintains the power to ban names that are considered strange, such as Ikea or Allah. One mom gave her child the name Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 in defiance of this regulation. It’s kind of strange, I think!

2. For having a beard

You had a beard; you had to pay for it! This is probably one of the strangest things people were taxed for throughout history. Czar Peter I (“The Great”) was enthusiastic about modernizing Russia, so in 1697–1698 he traveled throughout Western Europe and took in the cutting-edge concepts and methods he encountered there.

And what happened? He tried to “wipe out” bearded people because he believed they were a symbol of barbarians, which is why he shaved a couple at a reception held in his honor.

Meanwhile, he changed his mind about this and let anybody who preferred having a beard maintain it only after paying a tax. I would sooner shave than pay a lot of money to keep it if I were a male. What’s your opinion?

3. In Egypt, cooking oil was taxed

One of the first known charges was a “fat tax” levied on cooking oil in ancient Egypt. People were forced to purchase it as the Pharaoh’s monopoly was the only one selling it, and they were not permitted to reuse fat or substitutes for cooking oil.

4. Taxes for shadows in Italy

Now, this is one of the strangest things people were taxed for! The Italian town of Conegliano started charging store owners 100 euros a year in taxes in 2015 if their signage shaded public pathways. (This is not the same as the shade provided by sidewalk furniture or awnings, which are subject to other taxes.)

Naturally, a lot of store owners were irritated by this rule, which is why demonstrations began in 2017. One of the demonstrators claimed that the only distinction between the law and paying the Mafia protection money is that the former is legal while the latter is not.

If this article about things people were taxed for made you curious for more, we have a recommendation for you! Every culture has a unique way of approaching life. There are so many strange customs around the world, such as the “blackening of the bride” in Scotland, the “not looking babies in the eyes” custom in Kenya, the Chinese practice of enlisting geese as police officers, and the Amsterdam tradition of having children eat bread with chocolate frost for breakfast.

Check out Bizarre World: A Collection of the World’s Creepiest, Strangest, and Sometimes Most Hilarious Traditions written by E. Reid Ross which is available on Amazon for just $13.28 for the Kindle version.  

5. Single people paid taxes for celibacy

At approximately eighteen BCE, Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, enacted a series of laws designed to promote marriage and procreation, most likely to counteract the Empire’s perceived demographic decline.

In addition to cracking down on infidelity and imposing a fee on single people of both sexes, he also loosened several marriage restrictions (such as the ban on middle-class citizens marrying freedmen).

6. Windows

Among all the things people were taxed for, there is one that you may question if it’s true or not. One of the most bizarre and despised taxes in England was the window tax. It was once only payable by landlords of homes with ten or more windows when it was first introduced in 1696. Although the deduction was meant to shield those who were poor, it mainly benefited those who resided in private, modest homes in the villages.

Some landlords blocked up their existing homes’ windows and constructed new homes with few windows to evade these obligations. The tiniest hole was counted as a window and charged appropriately; therefore, the landlords could not just cut down on the size of the windows.

After a great deal of controversy and because, according to doctors, a house without a source of ventilation is the cause of various diseases, this window tax was removed in 1851.

7. Urine

Something was going on in ancient Rome, that’s for sure! If the shadow cast tax left you surprised, then sit tight because we’re going to talk about something even weirder. One of the weirdest things people were taxed for was urine.

The high ammonia content of urine was appreciated because it could be used to make mouthwash and even launder garments. Urine collection from public restrooms was subject to a levy under the administrations of two Roman emperors: Vespasian and Nero.

Even centuries after this incident, even in the late 19th century, there were a lot of public toilets named after him, “Vespasiennes.”

things people were taxed for
Photo by Gatien GREGORI from Shutterstock

8. Cow flatulence

If by any chance you thought Los Angeles was weird when it comes to greenhouse gases, then wait to see what happens in Denmark! The cause, identified by the European Union, is cow farts.  According to studies, methane from cows’ gradual digestion of greens might make up as much as 18% of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.

Slaughterhouses exacerbate the problem by concentrating significant amounts of gases, such as methane, in one location. Several EU nations have imposed tariffs on each cow to stop the pandemic of greenhouse gases caused by cows. Denmark has the highest rate, with a cow costing as much as $110.

9. Cereal toys

Another one from the list of unusual things people were taxed for is cereal toys. For most children, the highlight of breakfast is generally discovering a toy hidden at the bottom of the cereal box. Naturally, though, this also needed to be taxed!

For the cereal manufacturer in Canada, which receives a tax advantage for including a toy in their cereal, it’s also enjoyable. Toys in cereal boxes sold in our northern neighbor are not subject to an additional tax. The toy cannot be considered “beer, liquor, or wine,” which is the catch.

10. Medieval kings taxed knights who didn’t want to fight

Last but not least, some of the things people were taxed for date from medieval times. Vassals paid their master a levy known as “scutage” in place of the required military duty. Beginning in England in 1100, it was forced to be curtailed by King John, who mistreated the scutage, by the time of the Magna Carta, which was written a century later. It was no longer in use by the fourteenth century.

The overall idea of using money to postpone military duty would resurface later, even if the medieval practice of the “scutage” disappeared into history. One example of this is the practice of affluent residents hiring proxies to fight on their behalf during the American Civil War.

If reading about these unusual things people were taxed for made you smile, you may also be interested in reading about the Top 10 Unusual Traditions From All Over the World

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