Strange Taxes In the U.S. & Around the World

Perhaps certain taxes make more sense, like a tax on inheritance or investment gains. But let’s face it – some taxes are just plain crazy. Here are 12 of the weirdest taxes that exist today.

1. Kansas Taxes You to Stay On the Ground

Ever been hot air ballooning? It’s pretty fun at first, then that tether gets loosed and you realize the only thing holding you up is slightly less hot air than your grandpa talking about the good ole days. It can be nerve-wracking enough on its own. But if you happen to be ballooning in Kansas, you’ll pay even more than your sweat-drenched shorts. Kansas considers an untethered hot air balloon to be a form of transportation and a tethered one to be a device for amusement. Since amusement rides are taxed, you’ll pay extra for that tether. You can decide in the moment whether or not it’s worth the extra cost.

2. New York Taxes How You Get Your Bagel

Few things are more synonymous with New York than bagels. Sure, maybe the Yankees or people yelling at you to keep moving on the sidewalk are a little more prominent, but bagels definitely make the cut (see what we did there?). If you want your bagel cut for you in New York, or schmeared or topped in any way, it’s considered preparation for the purposes of taxation. Of course you could always just get a plain bagel that’s not cut, but what kind of New Yorker would you be then?

3. New Mexico Taxes You For Not Being a Centenarian

If you don’t feel like Googling that, a centenarian is someone who’s at least 100 years old. If you’ve lived in New Mexico for at least 6 months and are more than 100, you are exempt from state taxes. As if you needed another reason to not want to die, just think about how much you could save by spending your platinum years in the beautiful New Mexico desert. While away the days as you laugh at your great grandchildren complaining about taxes.

4. Arkansas Taxes Your Self-Expression

There aren’t many millennials who don’t have a tattoo on their skin or a piercing through something. It’s practically a rite of passage nowadays. But if you try to get any such mods done in Arkansas, you’re going to have to pay extra. This is how the government penalizes behavior it considers to be morally questionable (pretty unfair, right?). The state imposes a “sin tax” on body modifications such as tattoos, piercings, and even electrolysis hair removal. For a state that gave us Bill Clinton, they’re surprisingly strict.

5. Hawaii Gives You a Tax Break If You Have an Exceptional Tree

Just what is an exceptional tree, you may ask? Well, if you even have to ask then you’re probably like most people who still have no idea. But if you’ve got one growing in your front lawn in Hawaii, you can write off up to $3,000 worth of expenditures to take care of that tree and make sure it remains exceptional. The catch is that you do have to maintain the tree, so don’t run out and ask for the most exceptional tree at the tree store. You probably won’t end up saving any money.

6. Maryland Taxes You For the Rain

Maryland wants to protect the Chesapeake Bay from storm water runoff, so properties are taxed based on how developed they are. The state believes that a more developed property, one that has more concrete and building structures, will cause more runoff because there’s less grass and exposed land to absorb the rainwater. That’s all well and good… unless you live in a highly developed suburb of Washington, DC. In that case, too bad for you – you’ll probably be paying a pretty, rain-soaked penny.

7. Nevada Taxes Loud Music, But Not Soft Music

If you own a restaurant, bar, or club in Nevada, you’re probably used to dealing with lots of regulations. But you may not realize that you’ll be taxed based on how loud your music is. If you have live entertainment in your business, the state will tax you if it’s loud enough to be intended as entertainment. If, however, it’s soft enough that it doesn’t interfere with normal conversation or it’s really just there to fill in the awkward pauses during first dates, then you get by tax-free. So if you’re hiring a musician, maybe ask them to sing a few bars and see if you can still talk over them. They might be offended that you’re not paying attention, but at least you could save money in the end.

8. 40 States Tax Feminine Hygiene Products

If you’re like half the population of the human race that experiences menstruation, then you’re probably already aware of how much it can cost each month. If you’re in that other half, get ready to be surprised. 40 states in the U.S. tax such products either as a sales tax or a special “luxury” tax. So if you’re in any state other than Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, or New Jersey and you feel your monthly visitor approaching, ask yourself, “Can I really afford this luxury right now, or should I just wait until I have the money?”

9. Ireland Gives Tax Breaks to Artists

Ireland has a long and beautiful tradition of fine art, from music to literature. Maybe that’s because the Irish government takes such a favorable stance on the profits of artists. If you derive your income from artistic work that is original, creative, and has cultural or artistic merit, you can be exempt from paying income taxes on that income up to €40,000. The work must be literature, music, a play, or a physical piece (like a painting or sculpture) – and yes, you must be an Irish citizen. You probably shouldn’t get your hopes up about fleeing to the Emerald Isle to live an artist’s life. But if you’re serious about art and really hate paying taxes on it, there are some things to think about.

10. Sweden Taxes You If They Don’t Like Your Baby’s Name

For anyone in the U.S. who’s heard their friend say, “Here’s my baby, Rainbow Pumpernickel Agamemnon,” you might think this tax is a really good idea. In Sweden, the Swedish tax agency must approve of the name you choose for your baby or they’ll fine you up to 5,000 kroner. (Pretty Orwellian, huh?) Sweden says it’s to keep people from copying the names of royalty, but let’s be real… they probably just want to avoid having a nation full of Applesauce Tsunami MacGyvers.

11. Canada Gives Tax Breaks For Cereal Boxes That Come With a Toy

Don’t get too sugar-happy yet; the tax breaks are for the cereal company. But you still get a fun toy in the box, so that’s something. If a cereal company puts a toy in their cereal boxes they become exempt from certain taxes on those boxes. While the toys can’t be alcohol – clearly someone beat us to that idea – they can be enjoyable for kids or adults who just like something fun to play with while they down bowl after bowl of sugary shapes.

12. China Taxes Cigarettes, But Still Wants You to Smoke

China receives a surprising amount of its tax revenue from cigarettes. While no one is surprised that cigarettes are taxed, it may surprise you to know that at least parts of the Chinese government have encouraged people to smoke as a way of beefing up their tax intake. Hubeii province issued a quota for cigarette sales and imposed fines on people who didn’t buy cigarettes. While they did raise plenty of funds, we have a feeling they’ll be seeing the obvious downside of heavy cigarette smoking pretty soon.

From the U.S. Tax Center

Published: 05/17/2017

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