Here Are Some Fun Facts To Lighten Up Tax Time
1. The word “tax” came from the Latin word “taxo” which means “I estimate.”
2. Governments have been imposing taxes for thousands of years. There are recordings of tax payments made in ancient Mesopotamia circa 2500 B.C. At the time, people who didn’t have money to pay taxes often had to pay with livestock, food, or labor.
3. Even Albert Einstein found taxes inscrutable. He once said, “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax” (that is, according Leo Mattersdorf, the math genius’ tax preparer).
4. Aside from the nation of Eritrea in Africa, the United States is the only country that requires citizens to pay taxes on their income if they work and live outside the country. Some wealthy individuals have renounced their citizenship and have moved to another country to avoid paying taxes.
5. Violent Chicago mobster Al Capone famously got caught on tax evasion charges. Other mobsters, including Al’s brother Ralph “Bottles” Capone, Frank Nitti, and Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik, were also charged. Among his debts to society, Al Capone had to pay $215,000 plus interest in back taxes.
6. Fortunetellers, astrologers, and witches were added to Romania’s labor code in 2011, meaning they have to pay income tax and contribute to the country’s social programs. Some witches cast curses on the government in response — although others felt it legitimized their work.
7. Ireland exempts up to 50,000 euros in profits from the sale of qualified artistic work from income taxes. Grants, awards, and prizes may also be tax exempt if they are related to the artist’s work.
8. Beards are back in vogue, but there were times when having a beard was costly. During the 16th century, King Henry VIII imposed a tax on beards that increased with the wearer’s social status. Eventually the tax was dropped, but his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, reintroduced a beard tax on anyone with more than two weeks’ worth of growth. In Russia, Peter the Great wanted to Westernize the country and required every man, except peasants and clergy, to buy a “beard token” to prove they had paid up. The tax lasted from 1698 to 1772.
9. Talk about taxes’ ability to darken a day — in 1696, a window tax was introduced in England and Wales. It was assessed as a flat property tax plus a tax based on the number of windows a home had. As a result, some people bricked up their windows and new buildings sometimes were designed with fewer windows. Scotland and France imposed similar taxes in the 1700s.
10. In Roman times, urine and the ammonia within it were collected for uses such as tanning and laundering. Emperor Vespasian imposed a tax on the buyers of urine from public urinals. Today words for “urinal” in French, Italian, and Romanian are derived from the emperor’s name.
11. From 1784 to 1811, the British government taxed hats based on price. A stamp was pasted inside the hat, and anyone caught with a stamp-less hat had to pay a fine. At least one stamp forger was sentenced to the harshest penalty: death.
12. As Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Although he’s often credited with the idea, that line comes from a 1789 letter, and similar quotes date to 1716 and 1724.
13. Excise taxes are known as “sin taxes.” These are the taxes placed on tobacco, alcohol, and gambling.
14. Did you know, Maine has been taxing blueberries since 1882, and any Maine resident who grows, sells, handles, processes or buys blueberries pays a tax of three-quarters of a cent on every pound of blueberries grown, sold, handled, processed or bought! Since Maine produces 25% of all the blueberries in the US, the state make a pretty penny at tax time! Think about that the next time you enjoy a slice of blueberry pie.
15. It will cost you four leu to spend the night with your sweetheart at Alexandru Ioan Coza University in Rumania, even if you’re only burning the midnight oil and not burning with passion. With 1,800 students living on campus, the university is raking in a tidy sum of about 28,000 annually, which is roughly $8,745 US, 6,651 Euro or 5,985 British pounds. The money paid in tax goes toward repairs in the dorm buildings. Evidently, the sex tax receipts have become trophy items with the young men.
16. The Monagesques* pay no income tax at all – zip, zilch, nada! The world’s second smallest country (actually, it’s a city state), it has become something of a tax haven for the international high rollers. In Bulgaria, you’ll pay a flat income tax rate of 10%, regardless of how much you make, and Russia imposes a 13% flat tax, the Ukraine and the Czech Republic will take 15%, while Rumania assesses a 16% flat income tax rate and Iceland does too, for 23% of your income.
17. Taxes can be either direct or indirect. A direct tax is a tax paid directly to the government, such as income, Social Security, sales, property, and excise. An indirect tax is one that is passed on to another person or group. For example, the cost of fuel includes a tax that consumers pay. In other words, instead of oil companies paying that tax, they pass it on to consumers.
18. The most famous protest of taxation by the American colonies was the Boston Tea Party. On December 16, 1773, colonists dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor to protest the Tea Act and other oppressive tax measures. They argued there should be no “taxation without representation.”
19. The first computers used by the ATO were used primarily for issuing the five million refund cheques sent out each year in the mid 1960s.
20. The Australian Federal Budget is prepared by the Treasurer and presented to parliament. After the Budget has been debated and approved by both Houses of Parliament, taxes are collected in
line with the Budget. The Parliament decides on the levels of tax – not the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
21. In 2009, the following countries paid the highest taxes-the Danish income tax rate is 38-59% of total income. Ouch! Swedes pay 0-57%, followed by the Norwegians (28-49%), the Dutch (0-52%), Austrians (21-50%), Belgians (15-50%), Australians (17-45%), Germans (15-45%), Italians (23-43%), Spaniards (24-43%), the French (5-40%), and the Brits (0-40%). If you’re an American or a Canadian, you should feel better about income tax rates of 10-35% and 15-29% respectively!
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