Taxes have been unpopular since the beginning of time. (Well, at least since Ancient Egypt, which is the earliest society known to have them.) There’s just not much to like about giving up a chunk of your hard-earned cash. It’s difficult to find a silver lining (we tried), but to bring a little humor, here are some of the strangest taxes—they’re pretty entertaining.

  1. Window tax

In 1696, England enacted a window tax. If a house had more than 10 windows, the owner had to pay higher taxes, which increased with the number of excess windows. For homes with 10 or fewer windows, the owners—who were generally the poor—paid lower taxes. What could possibly go wrong?

A couple of things, as it turns out. First, a lot of the poor people this tax was designed to help lived in tenement housing. Which had a lot of windows, and was taxed by the government as one dwelling. 

Landlords, who had to pay this extra tax, started boarding up windows. And new buildings were constructed with almost no windows. (And almost no ventilation because even very small vent openings were taxed.) The lack of light and ventilation took a toll on mental health, and it also created conditions where epidemics of cholera, typhoid fever, and smallpox could thrive.

The tax was finally repealed 155 years later, in 1851.

  1. Candle tax

When England wasn’t busy taxing windows, they came up with other strange things to tax—like candles. In 1709, it was illegal for anyone to make candles, even for their own use, unless they had a license. And once they had a license, they were considered a manufacturer, and had to pay a tax on every candle they made.

      3. Beard tax

Russia had its own unusual taxes, especially the beard tax. This one was implemented by Tsar Peter I, to try to make Russian society more like Western Europe—where men were mostly clean-shaven. If men chose to keep their beard, they had to pay a tax, generating revenue for Russia. It seemed like a win-win.

Ultimately, the tax didn’t raise that much money because it turned out that most men were willing to shave their beards. The beard tax was eventually repealed by Catherine the Great, in 1772.

       4. England TV tax

Did you know that England charges a tax for owning a TV? Or, ‘tele’ as they call it. People who own them have to pay a license fee for each one. (It helps pay for programming on the BBC.)

That seems reasonable enough, but here’s where it gets a little weird: if a blind person has a TV in their home, they still have to pay the tax… but only half of it.

      5. Gas tax… cow gas tax, that is

You may have heard about how methane from cows (and sheep) accounts for up to 18% of greenhouse gasses. A few European countries actually charge farmers a tax per cow for these emissions. Denmark is the strictest—each flatulent cow costs farmers as much as $110!

     6. Texas belt buckle tax

Big trucks. Barbecue. Belt buckles. Texas will charge you tax on all of those things. But you’ll pay a little extra tax on that last one. Not on the belt, boots, hat, jeans, or anything else—just the buckle. That’s because Texas considers it an accessory, not essential clothing, and for some reason that warrants an additional 6.25% sales tax.

    7. Be sure to pay taxes on your illegal income (wait, what?)

If you make money through illegal means, you probably keep it pretty quiet. For example, you likely wouldn’t report it to a government agency. But the IRS expects you to. It’s actually part of the tax code, they spell it out and everything: 

Illegal activities. Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income on Schedule 1 (Form 1040), line 8z, or on Schedule C (Form 1040) if from your self-employment activity.’

It might sound ridiculous, but remember—it was tax evasion that finally took down Al Capone.

      8. California fruit tax

California is known for growing a lot of the country’s produce. The grocery stores and farmers markets teem with fresh fruit. If you buy it at either of those places, you won’t pay any tax on it at all. But if you buy fruit from a vending machine—and we’re not sure why you would—you’ll pay a 33 percent tax. There’s probably an interesting story as to why, but no one seems to know exactly what it is.

       9. Colorado coffee lid tax

Don’t like spilling hot coffee all over yourself when you’re walking or driving? You probably really appreciate those little plastic lids that keep that from happening. You might even consider them a necessity.

The state of Colorado would disagree. There’s no tax on the cup itself, because they apparently think there’s no way around that. But they tax that lid of yours an extra 2.9 percent as ‘non-essential packaging’.

     10. Pennsylvania air tax

You might think air is one of those basic things that you have a right to. After all, it’s everywhere. We even breathe the stuff. It’s not something you’d expect to pay tax on.
In Pennsylvania, sometimes it is taxed. Not the air you breathe (not yet, anyway). But if the air comes out of a pay-for-use compressed air machine at a gas station, or a coin-operated vacuum at a car wash, Pennsylvania will charge you tax. On air.