Tax Insights

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The strangest taxes in history

Taxes are not everyone’s favorite topic especially if they didn’t benefit from the changes enacted in 2018. However, it can be fun to look back on some of the strangest taxes that have been charged (in history and present-day) to make you realize it could be worse!

Don’t Miss: Overheard during tax season

In history

  1. England once implemented a window tax that taxed houses based on the number of windows it had. This led to houses being built with fewer windows which eventually became a health risk which is what got the tax removed.
  2. There once was a tax placed on beards in Russia to promote men having a clean-shaven look.
  3. A tax was imposed in England on printed wallpaper. To avoid the tax, builders would hang plain wallpaper and have someone paint a pattern instead.
  4. In Japan, there was a tax imposed on whiskey based on the percentage of alcohol. This led to whiskey manufacturers diluting their alcohol with water to avoid the tax.
  5. England once had a tax on candles that required people to have a license and pay taxes on candles they created on their own.
  6. The French imposed a tax on salt which was considered to be one of the contributing factors to the start of the French Revolution. England followed France’s idea and began to tax salt. This led to Gandhi starting nonviolent protests against the tax.
  7. There was a tax imposed on playing cards and dice in England which led to forgeries of these items to avoid the tax.
  8. England also imposed a tax on fireplaces that led to people sealing the fireplaces in their homes.

Learn more about weird taxes


  1. Pennsylvania has a specific tax on alcohol that brings in over $200 million in revenue a year.
  2. Pittsburgh has a 5% amusement tax that is charged on any form of entertainment.
  3. Tennessee requires drug dealers to anonymously pay tax on any illegal substances sold.
  4. Body piercings, pet grooming, and gutter cleaning are three items that have a 6% tax in Arkansas.
  5. California taxes fresh fruit purchased through a vending machine at 33%.
  6. Wisconsin has a tax on internet access.
  7. Chicago taxes fountain soda at 9% but only taxes bottled soda at 3%.
  8. Minnesota has a special tax on fur.

Sometimes we don’t understand how or why governments choose to impose taxes on certain items. However, what we do know is that taxes will always be around, for better or for worse.

If you have any questions about weird taxes that may be plaguing your bank accounts, feel free to reach out to a Henry+Horne tax professional. We have decades of experience, and we are confident that we can serve you well even when confronting the strangest taxes.

KC Kolb, CPA