If you hate the agonizing annual rite of paying your income taxes annually, you might be cheered up by realizing that other peoples around the globe suffer in their own way. You could live in a country that watches what you eat with hefty junk food taxes, or wants extra money when you buy movie tickets, for instance.
There’s little joy in combing through paperwork and receipts to figure out how much you may (or may not) owe Uncle Sam for the year. But cheer up. You could pay a lot more as a percentage of income if you lived in another country. And you could be on the hook for some of these strange, surprising, quirky, and even entertaining taxes, from owing for the cows you own or robots you use, that we found talking with tax pros and in our own research. (Curious about peculiar taxes here in the U.S.? Be sure to check out Strange But True Tax Laws From All 50 States.)
Sweden: Baby Names
Imagine having to get approval for your newborn’s name from tax officials. In Sweden, the law says anyone “wishing to acquire or change a personal name must apply for this from the Swedish Tax Agency,” and, though some might agree to limits on legal names, it’s not clear why a baby name is a tax issue, specifically. As a result, Chayim Kessler, a CPA with Miami Beach CPA, agrees: “Sweden has one of the quirkiest tax laws.”
France has more taxes than any other European country, says Brandon Pfaff, a tax expert who advises the publication Wealthy Living Today. “Most countries outside of the U.S. have what’s known as a value-added tax system, or VAT,” essentially a consumption tax on products, Pfaff says. But in France, “the sale of photocopiers, of all things,” brings a 3.25% tax on top of the VAT, with the money going to support the French National Library.
France has also found an unusual way to fund its National Film Center. The country charges a whopping 33% tax on any pornography that’s produced, distributed, shown, or staged live in in France. (Because that’s a thing that happens in France.)
RELATED: Check out these super simple ways to lower your taxes:
Denmark: Methane (from Cows)
Denmark has adopted an unusual way to take on climate change. Call it the methane tax, or the cow tax, or the flatulence tax, but the bottom line is that we’re talking taxing farmers for owning cows — because they’re among the most significant producers of methane in the world, and methane is a harmful greenhouse gas. Several reports and scientific papers have revealed the connections.
United Kingdom: Chocolate Covered Biscuits
Plain biscuits in the U.K.? A necessity, not subject to a value-added taxes. But coat them in even a little bit of chocolate, even partially, and suddenly they’re luxury items, subject to a VAT. Other sweets affected include lollipops, candy floss, and chewing gum.
Hungary: Junk Food
The battle against junk food has been taken to new heights in Hungary with a 27% value-added tax on junk food items, which comes on top of the 25% tax it already charges on most food. Levied based on sugar, salt, and fat content, the tax appears to work: About 59% of consumers were eating less junk food four years after the law was introduced, according to the World Health Organization.
India: Fast Food
Countries far and wide have cracked down on junk food via tax laws. The Indian state of Kerala, alarmed by a rejection of traditional foods and the largest proportion of obese residents among Indian states, imposed a 14.5 % “fat tax”’ on junk food such as burgers, pizzas, and doughnuts served in restaurants. It stands out from Hungary’s tax because, some business owners said, its introduction seemed more about scaring off foreign-owned fast food chains than being healthy, the BBC reported.
India: Movie Tickets
In addition to taxing junk food in some areas of the country, India has a tax on movie tickets, from about 18% to 28% by the price of a ticket. But those rates are actually an improvement in some states — which in the past charged as much as an 110% tax on movie tickets.
South Korea: Robots
The robots are coming, the robots are coming … or are already here. Whatever the case, South Korea isn’t taking chances. “South Korea introduced a robot tax to help make up for lost income tax on workers who are replaced by machines,” says Ethan Taub, CEO of financial sites Creditry and Billry. “It’s not so much of a tax as a reduction of a tax break.” To be exact, the country announced a few years ago that it would begin limiting tax incentives for investments in automating workplaces. The measure was designed to help fatten welfare funds in response to an expected increase in unemployment.
Australia: Wine and Beer
Enjoying a few drinks in Australia can set you back a pretty penny. Let’s start with the wine tax. Those who make wine, import it to Australia, or even sell it wholesale are subject to what’s known as a wine equalization tax for 29% of the wholesale value of the wine. Beers, meanwhile, are subject to all manner of taxes. Australians overall pay 17 times more beer tax than Germany, and about 15 times more than Spain. The tax increases come every six months — and it’s already gone up 71 times.
Mexico: Sugary Drinks
Mexico’s way of watchdogging eating habits was a 2014 excise tax of a peso per liter of any beverage with added sugar, around a 10% tax, Taub says. (At about the same time, the government rolled out an 8% tax on non-essential foods that contain a lot of sodium, added sugars, or solid fats, including chocolates, confectionery products, puddings, ice cream, and popsicles.) Some U.S. cities have looked at taxes on sugary drinks — Mexico, home of the famed full-sugar Coca-Cola, where the average person drinks 745 servings of Coke yearly — has federalized it.