It’s that time of year again. If you can create it, do it, or say it, “it” can be taxed, apparently. Or, as the old cliché goes, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” And, in point of fact, many countries, including the U.S., tax death, too. Though you may have expired, your tax obligations have not.
So, why not take a short break from working on your taxes to read about them? In doing so, we find that not all taxes are alike. Some are much more creative, i.e. outlandish, than others. For example, Sweden requires its citizens to get their child’s name approved by the Swedish tax agency, Skatteverket, before he or she turns five, or face fines of up to $770. Why? The government says its trying to protect children from being given an offensive or confusing name. I have an offensive, though in no way confusing, name for the Skatteverket and its ilk right now, but I will exercise restraint in case kids- such as Frank Zappa’s Diva, Dweezil and Moon Unit- should read this post.
In Canada, cereal manufacturers who put toys in their product’s boxes get a tax break from the good old government. Those manufacturers are exempted from the extra tax levied on manufacturers who don’t put toys in their cereal boxes. How dense would a company have to be, then, to fail to include a little something extra in their cereal boxes? Kids cereal, adult’s cereal, health cereal, whatever, put in a Bart Simpson figurine, a bouncy ball, or a French tickler for Pete’s sake, or sack your marketing department and your CFO. (Disclaimer: the toys can’t qualify as “beer, liquor, or wine.” Really? Has this been an issue in the past? Did Kellogg’s try putting airplane-sized mini bottles of Wild Turkey into its Fruit Loops containers? “Hey, kids, get looped with Fruit Loops this morning!”).
Peter the Great of Russia slapped a tax on beards for a time. If a man really wanted to sport a beard in the Russia of his rule, he had to carry a token showing his beard tax was paid in full, or face a hairy future.
In a really strange twist, China’s Hubei Province Imposed a tax on non-smoking in 2009. London’s Telegraph reported that local teachers were given a smoking quota, with one village ordered to purchase 400 cartons of cigarettes a year for its officials. The official reasoning behind this smoke-or-be-fined program was two-fold: to boost tax revenue and help out cigarette makers in the People’s Republic. Cough. Things are looking up. Cough, cough.
Not to be outdone, Denmark has imposed a tax on cow flatulence. In a bid to cut down on dangerous greenhouse gases, cow owners have to pay the government up to $110 per animal. Ireland’s done the same thing, but at a rate of “only” $18 per head. (Are farmers in Denmark ‘mooving’ to Ireland?). Imagine if the British had taxed the American Colonist’s cattle in the late 1700s. Talk about your “intolerable” acts. Bessie and her bovine friends would’ve been unceremoniously deposited in Boston Harbor in numbers that would’ve prevented the Crown’s ships from entering. School kids would’ve learned about “The Beef in Boston” or “The Boston Milk Party.”
Finally, Ireland, though it has a tax on cows, does give a tax break to writers and composers under certain circumstances. Income from the sale of their- and other artist’s- work is not taxed if the Revenue Commissioners deem the work to be original, creative, and with cultural or artistic merit.
Hmm. I’ve always liked Ireland…