Taxes have existed in one form or another since antiquity; and, as Ben Franklin reminds us in his famous quote, they are an unavoidable certainty in life. You know that taxes are inescapable, but you may not know some of the more obscure tax laws that existed or, surprisingly, still exist.
- In Roman times, there was a tax imposed on the urine collected from public urinals. The urine was sold for use in hide tanning and clothes laundering (for its ammonia).
- England started taxing playing cards in the 1500s, and the tax remained until 1960.
- Also in England, there remains an annual tax on TV sets. If you own a TV, you pay an annual tax or you are liable for fines. The proceeds fund the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) programing.
- America also has strange, contemporary taxes—like the bagel tax in New York. In the Empire State, there is an 8-cent tax for any “altered” bagels. Uncut bagels are exempt, but if you want one cut, or with cream cheese, it will cost you.
- Similarly, there is a candy tax still effective in Chicago. Candy with flour is taxed at 1 percent, while candy without flour is taxed at 6.25 percent.
- Also in Chicago, soda is taxed at 3 percent when in a bottle and 9 percent when from a fountain.
- Athletes are susceptible to “jock taxes” in many states. They must pay taxes on a portion of their earnings wherever they play.
- In New Mexico, when you are 100 years old, you become exempt from state taxes, unless you are a dependent.
- Arkansas has a tax on body alterations. There is a 6 percent tax to get tattoos and body piercings in the state.
- Colorado taxes “nonessential packaging” at 2.9 percent. The state legislature determines what falls into this category and, unfortunately, coffee cup lids are subject to the tax.