We whinge about taxes, but we’ve got it easy.
North Korea was in the news again recently as it emerged they are doubling their ‘dog hide tax’. Families are required to provide the horrifying donation of the skin of a dog to the party, or else pay 20,000 won (approx. £17), up from 10,000 the previous year.
North Korea is not alone in its weird tax laws. All over the globe, lawmakers have devised odd ways to eke out money from their citizens. Here are four of our favourites.
Japan’s ‘Fat Tax’
Back in 2008, Japan had the goal of cutting obesity by 25%. It attempted to do this by introducing the novel and controversial ‘metabo law’ which requires residents to keep their waistlines under a government-mandated size.
Adults aged 40 to 74 must report to have their measurements taken, with men required to keep their waist under 33.5” and women 35.4”. Whilst the rotund are not directly penalised (though they are given nutritional advice), their employers or their local government can be fined if it turns out they are harbouring too many obese individuals.
It seems harsh, but Japan has one of the lowest rates of obesity in the developed world at 3.2%. Here in the UK it’s almost 27%… someone pass the tape measure.
Alabama’s Illegal Drug Tax
The state of Alabama requires those dealing in illegal drugs to purchase tax stamps much like excise duty on cigarettes on their ill-gotten gains. Funnily enough, there aren’t many takers.
Of course it was never intended that crims would line up at the tax office to purchase the tax stamps. It was introduced in 1988 to bring in extra revenue from drugs busts. Attempts were made to enforce the tax following arrests, but these days there are easier loopholes to claw back money so the tax is more or less never enforced.
New York’s Bagel Tax
Albany, New York State, 2010. Cash-strapped state tax officials were under pressure to increase audit and compliance across the board. The answer? Raise some dough by enforcing a bizarre tax on sliced bagels. Whole bagels are not subject to any sales tax in the state of New York, but slice it in half or ‘alter’ it in any way – defined as, “sliced or prepared bagels (with cream cheese or other toppings),” according to the Department of Taxation and Finance – and shops are slapped with a very precise 8.875% tax!
Our Very Own Crisp Tax
When is a crisp not a crisp? When it’s made of corn or maize, obviously. Here in Blighty, your average bag of salt & vinegar potato chips are subject to standard rate VAT. If they’re made from maize or corn instead (like Monster Munch or everyone’s childhood favourite, Space Raiders), then they are zero-rated.
This led to a landmark court case from the legals bods over at Pringles, who argued due to the iconic tube-shaped packaging, ‘unnatural’ shape, and the fact that Pringles are actually only 42% potato, that they should be exempt from paying VAT. They were victorious at first, but then the decision was overturned at the Court of Appeal and crisp makers, Proctor & Gamble, were forced to pay tens of millions of pounds in back taxes.
If you need help getting your head round the rest of the UK’s tax laws, give us a call today!