Tax Talk: Weird Taxes in History


—Tax Talk: Weird Taxes in History

YBTC News—As discussed in previous editions, a very key component of taxes is the basis on which they are charged. From time immemorial, taxes have been imposed on citizens of various countries across the world on different basis.

It will interest you to know that despite the supposed justifications for taxes, seemingly awkward taxes have been imposed on people before now.

The weirdness of these taxes will leave your mouth wide open and if modern day government attempt same, the consequences will most likely be gory.

On this edition of #TaxTalkWithAbolarinMuhammad, we will be taking you through the most unimaginable taxes in history.

First, it is important that you know that these taxes though are weird but nevertheless, are legal and are borne out of economic reasons which past governments have used to rationalize them where they are levied.

So at best, the underlying thing here is that they exceeded our expectations of what we could be taxed upon.

Such weird taxes in history include:

Window and Wallpaper Taxes:

Interestingly, these taxes were separately imposed by Great Britain during the 18th Century. While the window tax was imposed on number of windows in a building with the owner liable for payments, wallpaper tax was levied on the printed paper hung on the wall as aesthetics designs.

One common underlying purport to both window and wallpaper taxes is that they were both used to generate income from the rich because the poor had fewer number of windows in their houses and few or no wallpapers. Hence, the rich were the ones paying heavily for these taxes.

However, one way builders devised in avoiding the wall paper tax was to hang plain papers on the wall and then paint the design later.

Powder Tax:

Funny as it seems, the powder tax was imposed by the British government in the late 18th century. The particular powder that was subjected to this tax were the ones used in maintaining the whiteness of wigs and making them look fresh. Female fashion was the victim of this tax. Indeed! Income was generated through this but it was just for a short while as wigs were forced to go out of style due to this tax

Urine Tax:

Yes, urine is human waste product but in Ancient Rome, it was not entirely a waste. It had significant value. It was useful for such purposes like tanning, brushing of the teeth, laundering – the ammonia in it apparently made for whiter-than-white togas. So owing to its usefulness, entrepreneurs started accumulating urine for its profitable use. And when the government noticed this, they levied tax on the collection of urine. This birthed the Latin phrase Pecunia non olet, or, ‘money does not stink’.

Beards Tax:

Yes, beards! The beards that is now in vogue has central of attraction was once subjected to takes. This was in a bid to improve the civilization of the Russian society. Hence, Emperor Peter, the Great in order to put an end to keeping of beards which was then deemed to be archaic, slammed tax on it. By implication, those who refused to cut their beards had to pay taxes to keep the ‘old fashion’. A similar tax to this was also imposed by Henry VIII in view of tax on Tudor England. The tax payable increase based on the person’s societal status. And thus, the level of beards became a way of determining social status then.

The list of these weird taxes go on and on. But one notable thing is that while we don’t have such taxes today, most of them as metamorphosed into sales tax or value added tax. And some are taxed through their manufacturers by means of Company Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax.

Thank you for Joining us on today’s edition. We look forward to your questions, comments and contributions.
Enjoy the rest of your Week.

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