Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A Taxing Good Time

Flood Tax eh???  If the UK government get a hold of this idea then it would solve our national debt problem in a flash (pun intended).

Hmm, this has made me think (and yes, thinking is something I can do once in a while folks) about the other weird taxes that have existed over the years.  Time to get into me TARDIS (shhh, don’t mention this to the BBC) and let’s go back in history shall we. Off we go chaps....Tally Ho!!

Cooking Oil Tax

Yep, the Pharaohs of Egypt can be considered Kings of Tax having levied many unfair taxes during their time, mostly on food produce, which when you think about it most people need. Perhaps one of their most glorifying moments above all other was the taxation of cooking oil.
In a shamelessly unscrupulous system which many politicians nowadays would be proud to have implemented, citizens of the time were forced to obtain their cooking oil from the Pharaoh's officials and recycling was strictly prohibited. Thus the Egyptian tax collectors would audit every single household to ensure that they were using the appropriate amount, confiscate their old supplies and force them to buy fresh, taxed cooking oil.
Sheer genius.  Creating employment (tax inspectors), and taxing at the same time. Where are they when they’re needed most today – dead thankfully.
Urine Tax (Are they taking the Michael??)

The Eygptians weren’t the only experts in the taxation field, oh no. The Romans were just as mad about income revenue, and in line with their desire for public sanitation matters the Romans came up with taxing urine. Though introduced by his predecessors, it was Emperor Vespasian (AD 69-79) who finally took the piss by rolling out the tax to cover all of Rome's many public toilets.

Do you really want the details??? Oh ok then.
The tax was actually levied on the collection of urine by the toilet operators who sold it on, at great profit to tanners and cleaners who utilised the liquid's high ammonia content.
Amazing – zero cost and all profit.  I’m surprised they didn’t charge for using the facilities as well. 
Beard Tax

Let’s not forget the Russians, and perhaps the most ingenious tax collector of them all, Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia from 1682-1725. Taking taxation to new levels of absurdity he levied taxes on drinking water, beehives and souls (actually this was just a poll tax - not quite as interesting as it sounds, but still a bloody good idea).
He even created a committee whose sole purpose was to think up new taxes – Doesn’t it just warm your cockles to think we have him to thank for our taxes nowadays???
One of his most ludicrous taxes, introduced in 1705, was levied on men who grew beards. The tax was a part of Peter's modernising reforms and was used to coerce his countrymen into dropping archaic hairsutist customs and bring them into line with the clean-shaven citizens of modernised Western Europe.
Of course, he simply forgot that the beards had a practical use as well keeping the colds winds off of men’s faces.
Window Tax

Yep, we English also had the odd brain wave as regards to silly taxes. Window tax (or glass tax), was introduced here in 1696 during the reign of King William III (lovely man). Eventually repealed in 1851, it was initially brought in as a way to tax people relative to their wealth.
The effect of this tax can actually see be seen today as many of the period's surviving buildings feature bricked-up windows spaces, a common practice used to avoid the tax burden by the middle-classes, who were greatly affected by the law.
Hat Tax

Hat Tax, much like window tax, was levied by the British Government (yay) in 1784 as a way of taxing citizens according to their wealth without resorting to income tax.
First introduced by Prime Minister Pitt the Younger (but suggested by Pitt the Even Younger, along with their younger brother still, Pitt the Hardly out of the Womb), hat tax laws forced hat sellers to acquire licences and employed a tiered tax system dependent upon the cost of the hat with mandatory tax-revenue stamps pasted in its lining. You know even then they couldn’t be doing with a simple system, oh no.  Let’s have a tax, and hell, let’s make it absurdly difficult.
Salt Tax

Of the countless salt taxes throughout history, perhaps the most well-known example is that imposed by the British in colonial India (it just makes me proud to be British, sigh). Salt taxation had existed in India for millennia, but in 1835 the British East India Company took it to a whole new level increasing the rate significantly, and the British Empire continued the harsh taxes when it took over in 1858.
This tax in India received worldwide attention during March 1930, when Mahatma Ghandi led the Salt March to Dandi. It was to be the first act of the Salt Satyagraha, a campaign of non-violent protest against the British salt tax, and moreover, the first act of organized civil disobedience after India National Congress's declaration of independence. The campaign did not have much effect on the salt tax, but it increased global awareness and support for India's plight against British rule.


Scutage, also known as Escuage, was a tax applied to people who didn't want to fight and die for the English King.  Don't look surprised, some of our Kings were foreigners you know thank you very much,

It started under Henry I, and people who didn't fancy going off for a weekend jaunt, slay burn and pillage (AKA knight service) all in the King's name could choose to pay not to do it instead (although it begs the question as to Why?).  The Crown had the right not to accept the payment instead of service, but Kings found it a rather useful way of raising money, with which they could then hire mercenaries.

Richard I (another lovely chap) came up with the cunning plan of refusing permission to pay instead of serve unless even greater sums were paid.

Illegal Drugs Tax

Several American states now have laws whereby you are supposed to pay taxes on illegal drugs that you have in your possession.

I know, it seems a contradiction and (if you'd excuse the pun) a very taxing decision to have to make....not. Come on, ILLEGAL drugs which you would have to OWN UP to pay the TAX thereon.   Hmmmm, nice try Uncle Sam. But wait....there's method in the madness.

Ok, here's an example, there has been since 1990 )in the State of North Carolina) the option to trek down to the local revenue office and pay over the tax to show that your lovely illegal drugs have been legally taxed.

However, 79 people have, apparently, decided to pay this tax ( I know, unbelievable) in the past 20 years.  Sadly, it does not mention how many of these were arrested upon walking gout of the revenue office immediately afterwards.

It goes without saying that the main source of revenue is, however, from those who don't pay and who get fined for failing to do so after being arrested for possession of said illegal drugs.

Only in America is there a tax revenue which is aimed at those who DON'T pay it.


The Present

Well me hearties, it's back to the present now, and I hope you enjoyed your history lesson.
Moral of this post - if you think your taxes are too much (AND let's face it, they are) then be grateful that the current powers that be haven't re-introduced any of the above.


  1. That post was quite taxing to read. Good thing you aren't charging by the letter, dearie.



  2. Idk I'm kind of liking the beard tax haha. It would make alot more people who wouldn't want beards and that is more then fine with me since i'm not a fan haha.
    Us Russians do have a reason for our madness ;)