50 Interesting and Fun Facts to Lighten Up Tax Time
"Fun tax facts" may seem like an oxymoron, but sometimes taxes can be amusing. From a tax on beards in czarist Russia to an American astronaut who forgot to pay his taxes before heading into space, here are 50 unusual, funny, interesting -- and sometimes practical -- tax-related tidbits.
Related: 50 Weird Laws From Around the World
Governments have imposed 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.
The first income tax in the United States came about with the Revenue Act of 1861. A flat 3 percent tax on income above $800 was used to fund the Civil War and repealed 11 years later. In 1894, a new flat federal income tax was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. It was not until the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913 that the federal income tax finally stuck for good.
While some people claim unintentional mishap when the IRS audits them, others have made it a point not to pay taxes. Common arguments or tactics include claiming that the 16th Amendment was not properly ratified, that filing violates Fifth Amendment rights, or that the taxpayer has taken a religious vow of poverty. Others believe they can form a trust to hide taxable income. The IRS says it will help taxpayers who were misled to believe these excuses.
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.
The top marginal corporate tax rate in the United States (38.92 percent) is the third-highest in the world, exceeded by Puerto Rico (39 percent) and the United Arab Emirates (55 percent).
Feminine hygiene products are a necessity for many women, yet most states impose a sales tax on their sale while exempting other necessities, including groceries and medication. There are growing international and domestic movements to end the tax.
U.S. car buyers pay sales tax, and there are fees for registering a vehicle, but they don't come close to what Danish car buyers pay. Depending on the price of the car, the registration tax is 105 percent to 150 percent of the sale price.