The world's weirdest taxes

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As we approach the election on June 8, the parties are debating how we should be taxed. Should the rich pay more? Or the elderly in care homes? Should we all pay more to fund social care?

These are serious questions, and on the whole, tax isn't a laughing matter.

But throughout history, governments have come up with many different ways of extracting cash from people, and some of them are very creative indeed.

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With the tax year recently over, staff at accountancy firm Howlader & Co have had a little spare time on their hands and have compiled a list of the world's weirdest taxes.

So as you check over your accounts this month, remember, things could be quite a lot worse.

The US
Americans have, in their time, faced taxes on soap, blueberries and napkins, along with hot air balloons and tattoos. Confederate veterans have faced a tax of their own, as have bachelors. They have, though, been able to claim various items as tax deductions, including kids' music lessons, pregnancy tests - and killing whales.

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The UK
It's well-known that the UK once had a tax on the number of windows in a house, designed as a simple way of taxing the rich. But did you know that we Brits have also been taxed on wig powder, fireplaces and printed wallpaper, as well as candles and hats?

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France has taxed salt, Italy has taxed porn - and Denmark has even taxed cow farts as part of a greenhouse gas levy. However, there's a silver lining for some, as you can make deductions against tax for studying magic in the Netherlands, while in Germany you can claim back the cost of bribes.

The rest of the world
In Russia, men were once taxed for having beards; in India, it's fat people and women who showed their breasts. In China's Hubei province, you can be taxed more for not smoking - yes- that's not smoking; while Canada has taxed cereal that doesn't come with a plastic toy. Meanwhile, in Australia, sex workers can claim back the cost of vibrators.

Ten terrible tax excuses
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Ten terrible tax excuses

HMRC has revealed the 10 worst excuses people have given for missing the 31 January tax return deadline. The excuses were all used in unsuccessful appeals against penalties for late filling and payment.

Top of the list was “My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.” It's the school homework classic that never gets old.

One taxpayer argued “I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.”

It’s not thought that he was up the mountain for the entire ten months - which would indicate a particularly slow ascent.

One person tried to get away without penalties by claiming “I fell in with the wrong crowd.”

Presumably this was some sort of anti-tax, paperwork-eschewing crowd, who ought to take full blame for the fact that you couldn't be bothered to fill in your form.

One of the most fanciful excuses was “I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.”

It’s an impressive level of excuse, although it might make quite a dull episode of Spooks.

One person tried to claim “Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.”

It would clearly explain why the tax return was late, because Obama has probably been a bit busy recently.

In an excuse which seems to have come directly from ‘My Family and Other Animals’, one taxpayer said: “I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.”
This taxpayer didn’t bother altering the excuse they usually use at work for missing deadlines and claimed: “A work colleague borrowed my tax return to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.”

One taxpayer argued “I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.”

While that could make online submission a bit tricky, it doesn’t fully explain why they weren’t able to complete a paper return or leave the van to find somewhere more suited to paperwork completion. Perhaps the supermarket cafe would have sufficed.

If in doubt, point the finger at your other half.

One person used the brilliant excuse that “My girlfriend’s pregnant”: presumably they weren't to blame for that either.

One person blamed the fact they had been in Australia - where computers and the internet presumably haven’t been invented yet.

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