You don’t have to be a tax agent to take an interest in the history of taxation. In fact, the topic is so fascinating, you may well find yourself slipping down a rabbit hole as one bizarre tax fact leads to another. Soon enough, you’ll be the resident tax historian in your household.
To get you started, here are six of the strangest taxes from countries around the world:
1. Hungary’s hunger tax
If you have a hankering for junk food in Hungary, it’ll cost you. Things like soda, cookies, crisps, cakes, and energy drinks may fall under the Public Health Product Tax (PHPT), introduced in 2011.
The tax bumps up the price of junk food, and it seems it has been working to encourage Hungarians to eat a more healthy, balanced diet. Since its introduction, the tax has prompted a drop in the consumption of junk food, and revenue from the PHPT has gone to increasing the wages of healthcare workers.
2. Tax-free living for Irish artists
If you’re going to be a starving artist, Ireland is the place to do it. Here, you can earn up to €50,000 from your creative work without having to pay a single cent in tax. This can include anything from paintings and sculptures to musical compositions, novels, plays, and other written works.
3.A tax break for toys
In Canada, if a company includes a toy in its cereal, it gets to enjoy a tax break. The strangest part about this law is that it specifies that the toy cannot be “beer, liquor, or wine.” Apparently, those whacky Canadian cereal manufacturers needed the clarification, eh?!
4. China’s chopstick tax
Those disposable chopsticks we get when we sit down for sushi or Chinese takeaway have to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, that somewhere is the world’s precious forests. China produces a staggering 45 billion sets of chopsticks each and every year, which equates to the destruction of around 25 million trees. Thankfully, China is working toward a greener future, which is where the chopstick tax comes in.
Though it is a small step, and far more needs to be done, the 5% tax on wooden chopsticks (introduced in 2006) was intended to encourage people to switch to reusable chopsticks, thus reducing the demand for disposable ones, and giving our forests a chance to recover.
5. A curious lack of taxes
Even if you barely pay attention to the news, you’ve probably picked up through popular culture that there’s something about Swiss bank accounts that make them attractive to wealthy people who want to avoid paying taxes. The reason for this is that Switzerland combines some of the most lenient tax rules in the world with some of the strongest privacy protections.
This has led to an estimated $6.5 trillion in offshore assets being held in Swiss banks. Clients are heavily protected by a law passed in 1934 that made it a criminal offense for anyone to reveal the identity of a Swiss banking client.
6. Throwing shade
In 1993, Italy introduced a tax on throwing shade. The law states that all shop and restaurant owners must pay tax on the shade thrown from their awnings onto the street. Only one town, Conegliano, appears to have accepted and instantiated the tax law. However, as you might expect, shop and restaurant owners simply removed their awnings.
With these strange tax facts filed away in your mind, you’ll never be short of a conversation point (or six) when chatting with friends or new acquaintances. Enjoy!