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Ukraine Plans To Tax Satellite Dishes, Air Conditioners, And Fireworks Displays


Tax nightmare

Tax nightmare

The coffers of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv are apparently empty, the passage of the city budget keeps being postponed, but the city fathers have come up with a plan.

Headed by Kyiv's colorful mayor, Leonid Chernovetsky, the politicians have proposed various new taxes in the hope of shoring up the capital's waning reserves.

(Chernovetsky is fondly referred to as Lonya Cosmos. Lonya is a diminutive of Leonid. Cosmos because people say the mayor often goes off on weird tangents and appears to be lost in space.)

According to media reports, Chernovetsky plans to introduce several direct and indirect communal taxes, which aim to raise at least 30 billion-40 billion hryvnyas (about $4.7 billion).

Satellite dishes and air conditioners are among the first to be taxed (50 hryvnyas monthly per dish, 24.5 kopiyky for every air-conditioner kilowatt-hour). Mobile operators will also be subjected to an additional tax.

Each transmission tower will be taxed to the tune of $100 per month and all newlyweds will be forced to be photographed only by municipal photographers for a set fee.

The city government also plans to levy a tax on private fireworks displays (very popular in Ukraine). As if that wasn't enough, word has it that Chernovetsky wants to institute a special tax on unmarried people.

All these wacky taxes would be collected by a special department the mayor's office will set up.

Mayor Chernovetsky is not the first functionary to levy strange and mysterious taxes.

In the 18th century, sparrows in the German state of Wurttemberg were taxed. Wurttemberg's environmentally unsophisticated burghers thought that all sparrows did was eat the harvest, so each landowner was obliged either to destroy the pesky little birds or to pay a tax on them.

In 1910, Tsarist Russia introduced a municipal bicycle tax in Lenin's hometown of Simbirsk.

Peter the Great, Russia's modernizing tsar, was constantly running out of money. Some of his creative tax ideas involved facial hair. In an attempt to make Russians more European (at least in appearance), Peter instituted a beard tax in 1698.

The tax differentiated between social classes: if you were a merchant of the highest order and insisted on keeping your beard, your tax was 100 rubles per annum.

But an average citizen was charged only 30 rubles for his facial shagginess. Mustaches were much cheaper. Villagers were left untaxed, unless of course they decided to visit a city. At that point they had to pay a tax of one kopeck.

The United States is also no stranger to funky taxation. Several states in the union have an illegal drug tax, Maryland taxes homeowners and businesses for flushing, Arkansas has a tattoo and piercing tax, and in Maine anyone who grows, buys, sells, handles, or processes blueberries is subject to a penny-and-a-half-per-pound tax.

-- Irene Chalupa

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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