Taxes are no fun — or are they? Some are certainly entertaining when you consider how offbeat they are. For example, there are plenty of strange U.S. taxes — ranging from a tattoo tax in Arkansas to a blueberry tax in Maine.
But bizarre levies aren’t limited to America. Plenty of countries have tax laws that might seem a bit odd or even downright outrageous. Here are some of the weirdest tax laws around the world that could be increasing citizens’ tax bills in other countries.
Junk Food Tax in Hungary
If you want a snack in Hungary, better reach for an apple instead of a bag of chips. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay the country’s junk food tax, which is officially called the public health product tax. The tax is on packaged snacks that are high in salt and sugar — as well as sodas and energy drinks — and adds about 20 cents to the price of these items, according to the Boston Globe.
The tax was introduced to reduce “consumption of food products that are not useful from a public health point of view and to promote a healthy diet,” according to a study by Hungary’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Science and World Health Organization. It seems to be working because the study found that 59 to 73 percent of consumers reduced their consumption of the taxed items.
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Nonessential Energy-Dense Food Tax in Mexico
You better watch your calories in Mexico, otherwise, you’ll end up paying a tax. In 2014, the government started levying an 8 percent tax on nonessential foods — snacks, desserts and such — with more than 275 calories per 100 grams. Mexican consumers did take notice of this add-on. A study published in the PLOS Medicine journal found that purchases of chips, cakes and other high-calorie foods dropped after the tax was added.
Fat Tax in India
Mexico and Hungary aren’t the only places that have tried to curb obesity by taxing junk food. The Indian state of Kerala imposes a “fat tax” on pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and tacos sold in branded restaurants. The aim of the 14.5 percent tax is to steer people away from fast food and make healthier choices, the BBC reported.
Entertainment Tax in India
A night on the town in India could leave you double taxed if you first get hit by the fat tax on a fast food meal and then have to pay the entertainment tax. Yes, you have to pay a special tax on sports events, movies, theater shows, exhibits, arcades and amusement parks.
The tax used to vary from state to state and ranged from 15 percent to 110 percent. However, the Indian government introduced a country-wide entertainment tax in 2017 that now ranges from 5 to 28 percent, depending on the form of entertainment, according to consulting firm PwC. Still, it’s hefty enough that you might want to skip the popcorn if you go to the movies.
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Tax on English-Language Schools in Bangladesh
If you want your child to attend an English-language school in Bangladesh, it will cost you extra. Not only do you have to pay tuition fees for these private schools, but you also have to pay a 15 percent value-added tax (VAT) on English school fees. All other schools are exempt from this tax, which is why the Bangladesh High Court declared the VAT discriminatory and illegal. But the government continues to impose and collect the tax.
Wine Equalization Tax and 16 Beer Tax Rates in Australia
If you want a drink in Australia but are watching your wallet, be careful about the drink you choose. That’s because taxes vary greatly depending on the type of alcohol you buy. There’s a wine equalization tax of 29 percent of the wholesale value of wine. Other products are taxed based on alcohol content — so the stiffer the drink, the higher the tax rate. For beer alone, there are 16 different tax rates in this tax-unfriendly country.
Shelled Nut Tax in England
Buying nuts with shells will save you money in England. That’s because there’s a 20 percent value-added tax on shelled nuts. There is an exemption, though, for peanuts — which escape the tax if they’re shelled as long as they’re not salted or roasted, according to British news publication The Telegraph.
Tampon Tax Around the World
Shelled nuts aren’t the only thing subject to the value-added tax in England. There are a whole host of things that were considered luxury items when the VAT system was created in the 1970s and therefore not exempt from the tax, according to BBC. Women’s sanitary products are among the items that don’t escape the tax. However, they are taxed at a lower 5 percent rate rather than the standard 20 percent rate.
There are several other countries — and several states in America — where there’s a tax on these essential items for women. Australia, on the other hand, recently agreed to declassify sanitary products as non-essential items and remove its 10 percent tax on them.
Robot Tax in South Korea
To make up for lost income tax on workers who are replaced by machines, South Korea introduced what has been called the world’s first tax on robots. However, it’s not so much of a tax as the reduction of a tax break. The Korea Times reported the South Korean government will decrease tax deduction for companies that have invested in automation by up to two percentage points.
Tax Exemption for Cereal Boxes With Free Toys in Canada
Cereal manufacturers in Canada get a tax break if they include free toys in cereal boxes, according to Canada’s Chartered Professional Accountants organization. However, to qualify for the tax exemption, the toy can’t be beer, liquor or wine, which would be quite the prize if manufacturers actually included that in a box of cereal.
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Tax Exemption for Artists in Ireland
Starving artists in Ireland have at least one thing going for them: tax-free income. This tax haven country exempts up to 50,000 euros of income from artistic works from income tax. That includes income from plays, paintings, sculptures, musical compositions, and books and other forms of writing.
Click through to find out the best and worst countries for the rich.
More on Taxes
- How Much Money You Would Have If You Never Paid Taxes
- How Much Money Gets Taken Out of Paychecks in Every State
- If You Can’t Pass This Quiz, the IRS Is (Probably) Coming After You
- Watch: How to Legally Cheat Your Tax Bracket
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About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.