When Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan proposed a new sugar tax in his recent Budget Speech, you would be forgiven to think that it is a strange thing to tax.
Make no mistake, however, stranger things have been taxed throughout history.
Here are the ten most bizarre things that have been taxed:
The Russian emperor, Peter the Great, implemented a tax on beards in 1705 which aimed to promote a clean-shaven look which was popular in Western Europe among Russian men.
Its popularity as an after-dinner activity led the English government to place a tax on playing cards and dice in 1710. This tax was only removed in 1960.
Spending a fortune on curtains wouldn’t have been too much of a hassle in 1696 in England after the implementation of a new law that taxed a house according to the amount of windows it had.
As a result, many houses were built with very few windows – or existing windows were barred. The law was repealed in 1851 after the apparent health hazard it posed became apparent.
Looking for ever-stranger things to tax, the English government decided that printed wallpaper should be taxed in 1712.
In 1784, the English government started taxing hats and headgear. The tax was repealed in 1811.
The American state Tennessee started collecting tax on illegal substances anonymously from drug dealers in 2005. It might surprise you, but approximately $1.5 million was collected in 2006.
If you’re a resident of Maryland or Virginia in the US, you’ll be taxed on flushing the toilet. Seriously.
The Roman emperor Vaspasian placed a tax on urine in the 1st century AD. He did this because urine was a valuable commodity in those times, used for tanning and bleaching purposes, and apparently even as a teeth cleaner.
9. Aromatic wig powder
A decline in the popularity of wigs in the modern era is probably thanks to a tax on the aromatic powders used for freshening up wigs in 1795. Where did this madness occur? Good olde England, of course.
10. Flatulent cows
In 2003 a tax on agricultural emissions (essentially, cow farts) was proposed in New Zealand to assist in compliance of the Kyoto Protocol.
It makes sense if you consider that 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand originate in the gut of said cows, but the law wasn’t passed.