Of all the strange practices that used to exist in our history, being taxed for what now seems like trivial stuff is the strangest to look back on!

Although, it can’t exactly be overlooked. So, here are some of the most absurd taxes people have had to pay back in the day. 

1. Tax on breast cover 

Back in the 19th century, the king of Travancore (Kerala) made it mandatory for women of oppressed castes to remain bare-chested. If they defied the rule and covered their breasts, they were required to pay a tax for that. It wasn’t until a woman named Nakhali came along that things changed. Nakhali cut one of her breasts off and laid it in front of the king, though she died, the unfair practice was finally discontinued. 


2. Tax on windows

In England, there was a time when people had to pay taxes according to the number of windows they had in their houses. But in 1851, when the lack of windows started impacting people’s health, the tax was finally dissolved. 

3. Tax on bricks 

Wow, not that the previous taxes weren’t wild, but this one sounds like a money-making scheme of a sort. Around the 1700s, England used to tax bricks. To avoid this, brick makers started making bigger bricks, to reduce the number of bricks one would use in construction etc. Though the tax was finally removed in the year 1850.

4. Tax on beards 

In 1705, King Peter the Great of Russia decided to tax the beard. People had to shave off their beards or else be taxed. Weird right? Apparently, the reason behind it was the king trying to modernise and westernize Russia (like the rest of Europe at that time). 

5. Tax on chimney

In 1660, England taxed fireplaces! To avoid the tax, people started covering up their fireplaces. The absurd tax was finally abolished in 1689. 

6. Tax on urine 

In ancient Rome, urine was an expensive commodity. It was used to wash clothes, clean teeth etc. because it contained ammonia. The tax was imposed on the distribution of urine from Rome’s public urinals. Err.. the aliens are definitely judging us. 

7. Tax on cooking oil 

In ancient Egypt, people had to pay taxes on cooking oil. The tax collectors made sure that people were only buying tax oil and not using any other option.  

8. Tax on the people of China

Canada had something known as the ‘Chinese Head Tax’. This tax was charged on the entry of Chinese immigrants into Canada. In 1923, though, Chinese immigrants were banned altogether (with a few exceptions here and there). 


9. Salt Tax 

France used to have a salt tax back in the mid-14th century. It was so disliked that the rule actually contributed to the French Revolution taking place. The tax was finally abolished in 1945 after the Second World War.

10. A hat tax

In 1784, to pay off the national debt, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger imposed a tax on men’s hats. All hats had a revenue stamp pasted inside their linings. The government took the tax so seriously that the penalty to disobey the rule or forge the stamp was death. It was abolished in 1811.

11. A coward’s tax

This was a tax set into motion by the medieval King Henry I of England. It was for the knights who chose to opt out of fighting wars. They had to pay a ‘scutage tax’ for choosing to do so. What free will? 

12. Wig-powder tax

England used to tax wig powders back in the 1700s. The tax was apparently used to finance government programs and wars with France in the late 1700s and early 1800s. It was basically a powder used to colour and add fragrance to wigs.


13. Toilet Flush Tax

To ensure judicial usage of water the state of Maryland in USA levies a tax on the number of times you can flush your toilet! 

I’m just glad we’ve evolved past all this!