Monday, April 12, 2010

Weird Tax Stories

We have a few more days to April 15.

In the US, this date is marked on the calendar as the official deadline for filing individual tax returns. It is the same here in Singapore.

If you are one of those who wait till the last minute, you are probably still struggling to put the pieces together. While I am in no position to offer any tax advice, I can share some weird tax stories. Hopefully, that takes some stress off you.

The Russian Beard Tax

It was a tax to regulate the appearance of the Russian people

In some past eras, beard was considered 'fashionable'. However, in the 17th century, beard went out of fashion in Western Europe. In order to keep up with time, Peter the Great of Russia ordered his people to shave off their beards. In 1705, he levied a tax on beard and wearing of beards was prohibited unless the tax was paid. To him, beards were 'ridiculous ornament'.

Window Tax in England

In 1696, King William III introduced the Window Tax as a means to overcome the controversy surrounding the idea of income tax. It was a form of wealth tax which was imposed on house owners.

The tax was made up of two parts: a flat amount at two shillings per house and a variable tax on the number of windows above 10 windows.

I guess the people could try to evade tax by having many doors instead.


This is a tax of 'text'.

In 2008, the Philippine government planned to impose a tax on text messages. Understandably, the Filipino texters were upset. They blasted "NO TO TEXT TAX!" text messages to the government and within less than a day of its announcement, the idea was dropped.

The Philippine government attempted to impose text tax again in 2009 but to no success. However, the people in Sacramento, California was not so lucky. In Dec 2008, they started to pay a new tax on SMS. Apparently, the voters were willing to trade it with a lower tax on landlines.

Cow Tax

This is a modern tax aimed at fighting global warming.

Scientists have reported that a high level of methane, a greenhouse gas, is believed to be 'released' by livestock. Several European countries have been discussing the idea of imposing cow tax in recent years. In US, the Environment Protection Agency was said to be considering US$175 a cow and the farmers all found the idea too stinky to be acceptable.

Taxing cows because they burp and fart may no longer sound funny if it eventually translates to a global price hike in dairy products.

Mooncake Tax in China

This is not a new tax but an extension of income tax.

Last year, in a bid to up the government's coffer, the Chinese tax authorities stepped up tax collection effort. One of their main targets was on the mooncake.

Mooncake is a pastry eaten during the Mid Autumn Festival (See earlier post on "Where's The Bunny?"). It is traditional to give mooncakes to friends and family during this festival. In China, many businesses also extend the gifts to their employees. For convenience, many provide gift coupons redeemable at local groceries.

The Chinese government launched an inspection of more than 3,100 companies last year. They managed to feed the coffer with 30 billion yuan of back taxes on gifted mooncakes and coupons. (See article)

Next time, think twice before you sink your teeth into mooncake given by your boss.

The Swedish Naming Law

This is not exactly a tax but a naming law regulated by the Swedish Tax Agency. The law was enacted in 1982 to regulate the use of names of noble families.

Nobody loves tax and they hate it even more when the taxman has the final say on the names of their children. In 1991, a child was named "Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116" as his parent protested against the naming law.

The Irish Artists Tax Exemption

Let's wrap up with a sweeter note of tax exempt.

In Ireland, income derived from the sale of art is exempt from taxation. This must be heavenly for Irish artists such as playwrights, composers, painters, photographers and sculptors.

The tax exempt is capped at €250,000. Otherwise, the millions of euros earned by U2, the famous rock group from Ireland, would be free from tax.

Taxes In Singapore

There is nothing all that weird about Singapore taxes. It is not fun, just like everywhere else. Even though the Singapore tax rates for individuals are lower than many countries and more than 90% of taxpayers file individual tax returns using the relatively easy electronic forms, tax is still tax.

April 15 will always be a grim date to remember. Ouch!

"People who complain about taxes
can be divided into two classes:
men and women."
~ Author Unknown~

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know U2 have moved all their operations to The Netherlands. This happened shortly after the cap was introduced which was a reactionary measure as Bono had earned 10 million in one year without paying a cent in tax.