From flatulent cows to beards these are the weirdest taxes past and present from around the world

A cow flatulence tax in Denmark is one of the more unusual taxes (123ducu via Getty Images)
A cow flatulence tax in Denmark is one of the more unusual taxes (123ducu via Getty Images)

With the UK general election just two weeks away, many voters will be looking to see which party is going to give them the best deal on taxes.

Whether it’s the bungled U-turn on the so-called dementia tax by the Tories, Labour’s pledge to hit everyone earning above £80,000 or the Lib Dems’ plans to put a penny on income tax, tax matters.

In an effort to show that accountants can have a wacky side, London-based firm Howlader & Co has put together a list of some of the weirdest taxes past and present from around the world.

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The 80-strong rundown puts the US at the top the of the pile for wacky taxes. Citizens there have to cough up on tethered hot air balloons, fruit when it’s sold in a vending machine and illegal drugs like crack to name but a few.

The residents of Maryland have even been paying $60 a year for flushing their toilets – with the cash used to improve the state’s sewer systems

Meanwhile, they have been able to claw some money back through deductions on trips to Bermuda, wigs for hair loss, guard dogs and “exceptional trees in Hawaii”.

Britain comes second with taxes on everything from windows to hats, pasties to wig powder over the years.

Some of the more modern ones listed for the UK include the hated poll tax and the equally controversial bedroom tax.

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And no examination of bonkers taxes would be complete without a look at Europe. One of the driving forces behind last year’s Brexit vote was EU interference on domestic tax matters and Howlader & Co has identified how urine is taxed in Italy and how a house width tax in Holland saw millions of homes built tall but narrow.

Five of the strangest taxes / tax deductions from across the globe:

  • Pro-smoking tax – China
    In 2009, local government officials in the Hubei province of China were ordered to smoke nearly a quarter of a million cigarettes in a bid to boost tax revenues and protect local manufacturers. Teachers were even given smoking quotas.

  • Cow flatulence tax – Denmark
    In an attempt to curb global warming, certain EU countries introduced a tax on cow farts, which contribute to greenhouse gases. Danish farmers have to pay $110 per cow, six times more than their Irish counterparts.

  • Tax deductions on bribes – Germany
    As recently as 2002, bribery was legal in certain circumstances in Germany. And what’s more – until 1999 it was possible to claim tax deductions for bribes.

  • Tax on beards – Russia
    Dating back to the late 1600s, Peter the Great set out to modernise Russia. How did he go about it? Anyone who wanted a beard would have to buy a token which read “the beard is a superfluous burden”.

  • Tax on toy-less cereal – Canada
    Technically it’s a tax exemption for cereals that contain free toys but what the hell? In Canada, manufacturers of children’s breakfast cereal are given tax-free status if it contains a free toy.

  • Chinese head tax – Canada. This tax was abolished in 1923.

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