Strange and Funny Tax Laws Throughout History

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Tax season concluded late this year, with the filing deadline on July 15th. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic instability that resulted from it, we are all a little stressed.

To lighten the mood, we decided to put together a list of funny and strange tax laws that have been levied throughout history. We’ve also included some strange tax laws that are still in place today.

In history:

In the past, governments taxed anything they could to make more revenue. This led to some very strange and interesting tax laws. Here are some of our favorites:

  • In 1660, England placed a tax on fireplaces, which drove the population to cover their fireplaces with bricks to conceal them. The law was repealed in 1689.

  • In 1705, Peter the Great placed a tax on beards in Russia, hoping to get more men to adopt a clean-shaven appearance that was common in Western Europe.

  • In 1696, England put a tax on windows, which taxed houses based on how many windows they had. The result of this was housing with fewer windows, which in turn caused health issues. Despite this, the law was not repealed until 1851.

  • In 1712, England passed a tax on printed wallpaper. Builders started hanging plain wallpaper, then painted designs on it to dodge the tax.

  • Japan imposed a tax on whiskey that was based on the percentage of alcohol by volume. European whiskey paid the price on this because they were not allowed to dilute their whiskey. Japanese makers did dilute their whiskey, so they had the advantage.


There are still some strange laws floating around today. Most of these examples are laws specific to states in America with a few exceptions. Check them out:

  • England has a tax on televisions. Everyone who has a television at home has to pay a yearly fee, which is called a television license fee. That fee is currently £157.50 ($197.96 USD) a year and £53($66.61) for black and white TV sets. This tax is used to find the BBC news service. If a blind person owns a TV, they only have to pay half the tax. You face a fine if you don’t pay the fee.

  • NYC has a special tax for prepared foods and for food. So something like a sliced bagel is taxed as both food and as a prepared food.

  • Tennessee began requiring drug dealers to anonymously pay taxes on the illicit substances they sell back in 2005. Alabama taxes the sale of illicit drugs by requiring sellers to have tax stamps. If someone from Alabama is caught with a large quantity of drugs, they will not only face drug charges, but also tax evasion charges.

  • In California, you pay a 33% tax on fruit you buy from a vending machine.

  • Double amputees in Oregon get a $50 tax credit.

  • If you’re over 100 in New Mexico, you are tax exempt, unless you are a dependant.

Why do you think these laws were created? What’s the story behind them? Did you enjoy the list?


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