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Home > Business & Politics > The most unusual tax ever?

In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes - Benjamin Franklin. Governments have always found ways to raise revenue, and the ones set out below are some of the strangest, but we should not be surprised with their ingenuity, as Ronald Regan said - If it moves, tax it. It just shows you that our leaders will do anything to get their hands on our money.


Comments (3)

here here!

By martin (15146) - Prophet | 07.12.09

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I'm sure he would but he is not going to admit to it until after the election. Not that he will get back in but his only chance is to promise increased spending and deny tax rises but we all know it's a lie.

By ninganut (16726) - Prophet | 30.11.09

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I bet old Gordon would love to re-introduce a few of these!

By topquack (5010) - Prophet | 26.11.09

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1) Wallpaper Tax UK (1712 - 1836)

The earliest known wallpaper in England dates back to 1509 - an Italian inspired woodcut pomegranate design. Use of wallpaper became so widespread that it inspired the introduction of a tax in England by 1712 on paper that was “painted, printed or stained to serve as hangings”. However, by 1806, falsification of wallpaper stamps was added to the list of offences punishable by death. To deal with the tax, English manufacturers sought to increase sales by simplifying their designs catering to the mass market.


2) Candle Tax UK (1709 - 1831)

From 1709 a tax was levied on candles. Not only that, it was forbidden for people to make their own unless they held a licence and paid tax. As a result, rush lighting became prevalent. Indeed, it is said that Oliver Cromwell chided his wife for sewing by the light of two candles, blowing one out in horror at her extravagance.


3) Window Tax UK (1696-1851)

In 1696 there was a financial crisis created by a growing inflation caused by the many conflicts both in Ireland and on the continent. One of the forms of taxation created to help pay the debt was known as the “Window Tax”. The tax would be paid on a house of more than six windows. One way for a person to by pass the tax was to brick up one or two windows over the stated six, even today on some of the older houses the bricked up windows are still there.


4) Hat Tax UK (1784 - 1811)

Levied on men's hats the tax was introduced during the first ministry of Pitt the Younger and was designed to be a simple way of raising revenue for the government in a rough accordance with each person's relative wealth. It was supposed that the rich would have a large number of expensive hats, whereas the poor might have one cheap hat or none at all. Each man's hat was required to have a revenue stamp pasted inside on its lining. Heavy fines were given to anyone, milliner or hat wearer, who failed to pay the hat tax. However, the death penalty was reserved for forgers of hat-tax revenue stamps.


5) Brick Tax UK (1784 - 1850)

The Brick Tax was initially based on the number of bricks so naturally enough the size of bricks began to increase in order to pay less tax, however officials soon got wise to this and maximum mould sizes were strictly monitored. The tax was abolished in 1850 at which point bricks became a much more popular choice as a building material. his, combined with the innovations of the industrial age that mechanised aspects of the process, meant that commercial brick makers began to proliferate throughout the county


6) Soap Tax UK (1712 - 1853)

A tax so burdensome that it drove many soapmakers out of the country in order to earn their livelihood. Many of them immigrated to the colonies, where the tax could be avoided. Onerous laws were also in effect during that period to prohibit soap from being made in batches of less than one ton. That kept the soapmaking process firmly in the hands of those capitalists wealthy enough to afford larger manufacturing facilities, and out of the hands of the small soapmakers.


7) Playing-cards Tax UK (16th C - 1960)

Playing-cards were seen by the Kings and Queens of England as a ready source of revenue, particularly when there were wars to be paid for. So the makers, and later the purchasers, paid a tax on each pack. Instances are recorded of taxes being raised in 1588, 1628, during Queen Anne's reign, and from 1711 onwards, until the tax was finally abolished in 1960 since by then it was more trouble to collect than it was worth.


8) Income Tax UK (1800 - 1816)

Introduced to finance the war with Napoleon. The tax was repealed in 1816 and opponents of the tax, who thought it should only be used to finance wars, wanted all records of the tax destroyed along with its repeal. Records were publicly burned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer but copies were retained in the basement of the tax court. And now, I suppose, it's too late!


9) Fireplace Tax UK (1662 - 1689)

The hearth tax was levied on each householder according to the number of hearths in his/her occupation to provide a regular source of income for the newly restored monarch, King Charles II. By 1661 the King was short by £300,000, a figure that the hearth tax was projected to yield but which proved to be a hopeless overestimate. The 1662 Act introducing the tax stated that 'every dwelling and other House and Edifice …shall be chargeable ….for every firehearth and stove….the sum of twoe shillings by the yeare'.

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