You want to tax what?

Jan 9, 2014 | TC blog

While completing this year’s tax return, you might want to spare a thought for our ancestors, who were subjected to some weird and wonderful taxes!

In ancient Egypt, cooking oil was taxable. In an early example of tax investigation, households would be audited to ensure they didn’t use recycled oil in an effort to avoid paying the tax.

Light, heat and indeed shelter at one time or another have been considered fair game, with taxes on windows, candles, hearths, bricks and wallpaper being paid in the United Kingdom.

Personal appearance was also regulated by the tax authorities, with taxes on everything from beards to hats to wig powder. More distressingly, the tax on soap was only repealed in the 1830s.

In a break from playing his fiddle, Nero introduced a tax on the collection of urine, which was used as a source of ammonia. Perhaps the modern equivalent is the tax paid in certain EU countries on methane produced by cattle; we can all imagine what the nickname for that tax might be!

Fun has always been taxed with duties levied on playing cards and dice only being repealed in 1960 and in Texas, strip clubs have to pay a “Pole Tax” if they serve alcohol.

For balance, there are some pretty bizarre tax breaks out there too. Until 1999, bribes were considered tax deductible in Germany and Canadian breakfast cereal manufacturers get a tax break if they include a free toy in boxes of cereal, which are then tax exempt.

Finally, you might want to consider a change of career; training in witchcraft is tax deductible in The Netherlands!

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