FIFA World Cup 2018: fact of the day

FIFA World Cup 2018: fact of the day

Enjoy a fact of the day to go with the match of the day! Stay tuned for tax and economy facts about all 32 countries as they play


  • In 1698 Russian Emperor Peter I introduced a tax on beards in an effort to modernise Russian society and bring it in line with Western Europe. Bearded men had to carry a copper or silver “beard token” to prove they had paid the tax and police would forcibly shave those who refused to pay.
  • In 2001 Russia transitioned its old graduated personal income tax into a single flat rate of 13%, replacing the previous 12%, 20% and 30% brackets.

   Saudi Arabia

  • Residents of Saudi Arabia pay no personal income tax on earnings derived from employment in the country. However, non-residents conducting business in the Kingdom are subject to an income tax rate of 20%.
  • Previously a largely tax-free country for residents, this year Saudi Arabia introduced a 5% VAT on most goods and services, including electricity bills, food and entertainment. The introduction of VAT made with the intention to boost revenue and reduce the country’s economic independence on oil
  • While Saudi banks and other firms generally do not pay corporate tax, they are subject to an annual Islamic tax called zakat, a 2.5% levy on each bank’s net worth. Zakat is one of the pillars of Islam and the proceeds from the tax go to charity


  • Ancient Egypt created the first known system of taxation. Being a cashless society at the time, tax was paid in the form of forced labour or goods such as grain, which the pharaoh would store in case of drought or bad harvests.
  • Ancient Egypt levied a tax on cooking oil, which was owned by the Pharaoh, and scribes would inspect houses to ensure old cooking oil was not being reused.
  • In 2016 Egypt floated its currency, leading to a 50% reduction in value against the dollar. The move was taken as part of a series of reforms to meet the requirements of the IMF for a 3-year $12bn loan program.


  • Uruguay has a partially dollarized economy, with around 60% of banks lending in United States dollars. Despite many financial transactions occurring in dollars, the Uruguay central bank only issues pesos.
  • In the 2002 Uruguay banking crisis approximately 33% of the country’s deposits were taken out of financial system and five financial institutions went into insolvency.
  • José “Pepe” Mujica, who was President of Uruguay between 2010-2015, donated 90% of his salary to charity, leading to him being known as ‘the world’s poorest president’.


  • Instead of paying taxes in Mexico, artists can submit pieces of work to a jury for consideration, which, if accepted, will be taken in lieu of payment. Under the Pago en Especie scheme, artists can donate one art piece for every five sold, up to a maximum of six donated pieces annually.
  • The Aztecs used Cacao seeds as a form of currency, as they were considered valuable enough to be used as payment. They were used as a means of exchange rather than as a standard of value.


  • Unfair taxes levied against the lower classes was a contributing factor to the French Revolution. One of the most unpopular was a salt tax known as the gabelle. Failure to adhere to the gabelle led to thousands of people imprisoned or put to death.
  • The word “accountant” is derived from the French word compter, which means “to count or score”. Previously written as “accomptant”, the letter “p” was never pronounced and was eventually dropped from the spelling.
  • Taxes in France have historically been very diverse and until 1789 were collected by the state, the church and lords.


  • Morocco’s “shadow economy”, consisting of legal but informal economic operations, is estimated to generate 20% of the country’s GDP, according to the CGEM. The study says this is made up of almost MAD 170bn ($18.4bn) in untaxed revenues.
  • The World Bank recently approved US$125 million in support of Morocco’s adoption of innovative solar technology, as part of the country’s goal to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and produce 52% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030
  • The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico after their joint bid beat Morocco by 134 votes to 65.


  • Portugal abolished inheritance tax for close family members in 2004. Inheritance tax was replaced with a 10% stamp duty, which only applies to Portuguese assets.
  • Portugal’s star player Cristiano Ronaldo recently agreed to a two-year suspended prison sentence and a £16.4m fine from the Spanish tax authority for tax evasion, after being accused of hiding revenues generated from his image rights.


  • In 2015 Spain introduced a controversial tax on the personal use of photovoltaic converters (solar panels), known as the “sun tax”. The tax was vastly unpopular with environmentalists, and reports suggest it is likely to be scrapped soon.
  • A 2016 report from Eurostat said that in Spain 85% of the tax burden falls on families. The report said that 9 out of every 10 euros collected comes out of the pockets of workers, while less than 1 euro comes from capital gains, a reflection of Spain’s growing economic inequality.
  • In 2014, the top 10% of Spain’s wealthiest households held 52.8% of the country’s wealth, according to a Bank of Spain Survey of Household Finances.


  • Charitable trusts called Bonyads control roughly 20% of the Iranian economy, from auto-manufacturing to soft drinks to tourism. Bonyads are tax exempt and are often criticised for being corrupt and inefficient.
  • Iran has a largely “informal economy”, meaning it runs on an off-the-book system which makes taxation difficult. According to the Expediency Council, over 60% of economic activity in Iran evades taxation.
  • In anticipation of US sanctions being re-imposed, the Iranian Rial dropped to a record low against the US dollar over the weekend (24th June).


  • The Cod Wars of 1958 saw Iceland fight with Great Britain over fishing waters. Iceland increased their exclusive fishing waters from 4 miles to 200 miles, boosting their fishing industry, which accounts for 40% of the nation’s economy.
  • Since 2010 tourist arrivals in Iceland have increased by 378%, making tourism the single most important industry in the country. In 2017 it accounted for more than 10% of the nation’s GDP and 42% of its exports.


  • The Argentinian economy almost doubled between 2002 and 2011, growing at an average of 7.1% annually. Real wages rose by a massive 72% from 2003 to 2013.
  • Making and exporting wine is a famous Argentinian trait. Back in 2004, the nation exported over 159,000 tons of it, making up 2% of the total global wine exports.


  • Buying a car in Denmark is very expensive. The country charges a tax of 150% on all new car purchases. No wonder there are more bicycles than people in Copenhagen and 35% of all journeys in the city are completed by bike.
  • Denmark earns more income from taxes than any other developed country. In 2016 income taxes, social security contributions, taxes on property, goods and services added up to contribute to 45.9 percent of Denmark’s overall earnings. Denmark’s high taxes are closely related to the Scandinavian social welfare system, which provides services like free university tuition, free healthcare, and generous unemployment and family benefits.


  • The Inca Empire, which originated in Peru, taxed individuals in the form of a labour tax. Taxpayers, who were males within an age range, were organised into labour units that often doubled as military units.
  • Luxury goods in Peru can be subject to excise tax up to 118%.
  • Earlier this year Peru was consumed by strikes over fuel tax hikes, leading to the finance minister resigning over the issue.


  • The services sector is the largest part of the Australian economy, accounting for about 70% of GDP and 75% of jobs.
  • The Turnbull government in Australia recently passed landmark tax cuts in a $143bn income tax package.
  • Australia has a relatively low tax burden in comparison with other developed nations, at 27.8% of GDP in 2018.


  • Around 3.55% of taxpayers in Switzerland – the highest-income individuals – account for more than 50% of the direct individual tax.
  • During the 1820s, Switzerland had a number of currencies from different banks competing with each other. It wasn’t until about 1850 that multiple banks began issuing a single currency, the Swiss franc.


  •  Brazil spent US$11 billion on hosting the 2014 World Cup. That made it the most expensive world cup tournament to date, since the competition began in 1930.
  • Brazil’s government spent $53 million in public funds for Pope Francis’ visit in 2013.


  • The Serbian government recently donated $5.4 million to help revive the economy of Srebrenica, the Bosnian town where the 1995 Massacre took place.
  • Serbia is the largest exporter of raspberries in the world. It contributes 30% of all raspberries to the international market.

 Costa Rica

  • The currency of Costa Rica is officially called the colon, but Costa Ricans often use their word for flour (harina) to refer to their money.
  • In English, Costa Rica means ‘rich coast’, even though in the beginning it was one of the poorest regions in the Spanish Empire. When the Europeans saw the gold pensants that the natives wore, they imagined it was a treasure chest, not realising that the gold had come from elsewhere, and that was when they named the spot ‘Rich Coast’.


  • Education tax is imposed on all companies that are incorporated in Nigeria. It is considered a social obligation for all companies operating in Nigeria to ensure they contribute to developing educational facilities in the country. The tax is 2% of profits made.
  • The economy of Nigeria is one of the largest in Africa, and since the late 1960s it has been mainly based on the petrol industry.


  • Dubrovnik’s previous mayor estimated that the Game of Thrones series was responsible for about half of the 10% annual growth in tourists that the city has seen in recent years. This influx of fans from the popular TV show and books came at a particularly difficult time for the Croatian economy, which was officially in recession from 2009-2014.
  • At the time of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Croatia’s economy was mainly agricultural, although this period of time also marked the beginning of its industrial age.


  • According to reports, Abba’s choice of stage dress was partly influenced by tax rules in Sweden, which allowed individuals to claim tax deductions for clothing if the clothes were not used for everyday wear.
  • In Sweden, parents must register their child’s name with the Swedish Tax Agency within three months of the baby being born. The authority has the power to reject the name if it believes it unsuitable.

South Korea

  • South Korean artist Psy’s video for hit single Gangnam Style was the first to reach 2bn views on YouTube. In 2014, Forbes reported that the singer had earned $2m from YouTube advertising, with Psy’s wealth rising to between $8-10m when factoring in all revenue streams.
  • Son Heung-min is the most valuable player in the South Korean national squad at this year’s World Cup with an estimated market value of €50m.


  • Belgian graphic designer Alain Billiet is widely thought to be the designer of the euro currency symbol. The European Commission chose the design from thirty proposals with the winning € symbol having been inspired by the Greek letter epsilon. The parallel lines reflect the stability of the currency.
  • The top tax rate in Belgium is 50%, imposed on taxable income of €39,660. This compares to the European average of 32.5%.


  • Panama was named by the European Council as a non-cooperative jurisdiction in taxation matters in December 2017 but was swiftly removed from the list just one month later after commitments had been made “at a high political level to remedy EU concerns”. Panama is now on a separate category of jurisdictions which are subject to close monitoring.
  • American traveller Richard Halliburton paid $0.36 to swim the Panama Canal in 1928. It was the lowest toll paid in the history of the canal.


  • Tunisia is one of the world’s top producers of olive oil with annual exports reaching $0.5bn over a three-year period, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The country produces three times the amount of certified organic olive oil annually than Spain.
  • Tunisia’s GDP is $42.10bn, 0.07% of the world economy. The country’s highest GDP was recorded in 2014 at $47.60bn.


  • The City of London pays rent to the Crown on two pieces of land every year in October or November. During the Ceremony of Quit Rents, payment of the tax takes the form of two knives (one blunt and one sharp), six giant horseshoes and 61 nails. The first ceremony took place in 1211.
  • The Queen has voluntarily paid income tax and capital gains tax since 1992, however she is not legally required to do as she has a tax-exempt status.


  • Drug lord Pablo Escobar was included in the Forbes first edition of the international billionaires list in 1987 and in subsequent issues. His net worth in the 1990 edition of the list was estimated at $3bn. Escobar is said to have offered to pay the Colombian national debt of $10bn in exchange for amnesty as the authorities cracked down on the drug trade.


  • The world’s oldest continually operating company was based in Japan. Kongo Gumi, a construction company which specialised in temple building, was founded in 578AD and run by descendants of the founders for 1400 years. Before the company’s liquidation in 2006, it had over 100 employees.
  • The state pension age in Japan is set to rise to 71 in 2020. The government approved proposals earlier this year to allow individuals to choose to receive their state pension beyond the age of 70. Approximately a third of the population are over the age of 60.


  • Poland is one of the cheapest countries in Europe in which to buy a Big Mac. According to The Economist’s Big Mac Index, as of 1 January 2018, a Big Mac in Poland costs 10.10 zloty (£2.14), compared to £3.19 in the UK and a whopping £4.89 in Switzerland.


  • In the 1960s, Senegal’s peanut exports accounted for almost 25% of all peanut exports worldwide. The country’s main exports are now oil, gold, phosphate and fish.


  • Germany has the second highest tax rate after Belgium when comparing 35 developed countries around the world. In Germany, nearly half of a single person’s income goes towards taxes and social security contributions.
  • German’s debt from World War One was equivalent to 96,000 tons of gold, around half of world’s gold reserves. At the time it was £11.3 billion, and today would be equivalent to half a trillion American dollars.

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