The idea and practice of tax is considered to a central component of the modern relationship between the modern citizen and their governments in the developed world.
From the Magna Cart and the first rumblings of Western parliamentary democracy to the cries of “no tax without representation” that heralded the beginning of the American war of independence, issues of taxation have been at the forefront of some of the most important events in our collective history.
Some of the Weirdest Taxes Ever Levied In History
And while some of us think that the very concept of taxation is unjust and barmy to this day, there are instances in history of some mind-bendingly strange taxes being levied on the people of the world.
A look back at some of these should not only provide with us with an interesting look at one of the more underappreciated historical drivers, but should also reinforce just how far we have come as a species in reigning back the unfettered power of kings and spiritual leaders.
So next time you find yourself grumbling about your tax bills, just spare a thought for the poor suckers that had to pay for the following…
The Roman Urine Tax
If you find the idea of taxing urine strange, just stop for a moment to consider the basic idea that underlines it: that in the time of the Romans, urine was a valuable enough commodity to be bought and sold!
Under the emperors Nero and Vespasian the poor citizens of Rome had to pay a tax for the honour of urinating into a pot, and then paying a second tax for the pot to be emptied into a big cesspool so the ammonia that it contained could be used to tan leather and wash clothes.
The English Hat Tax
This was a rather inventive, and stupid, variant of a tax on wealth that operated in England from 1784 to 1811. The logic at work here is that rich people would have more hats and would be more likely to replace worn and damaged hats quicker than your average Joe. During this time you even had to have a special permit to sell hats.
The English/Russian Beard Tax
You could be taxed in England for having a beard both in the time of Henry VIII and that of his daughter Elizabeth I, although the latter stipulated that the beard could be grown for two weeks before becoming taxable…which is obviously completely unworkable as every beard grows at different speeds!
Peter I of Russia just thought that beards weren’t smart enough for his population to be rocking and decided to make some money out of it.
The American Candy Tax
It seems strange for the land of candy, and John Candy of course, to introduce a tax on sugary and unhealthy treats, but that is exactly what the US state of Illinois did in 2009.
The problem came with the rather bizarre classification that was used for the tax. If a sweet foodstuff contains sugar or needs to be refrigerated it is by law not considered to be candy and therefore not subject to the tax. This means that a chocolate covered carrot could be deemed to be candy while a chocolate covered flapjack would not, and that of the two varieties of Milky Way sold in the states, one was candy and the other was not.
This is only a sample of some the strange ways in which our rulers have charged us for the pleasure of doing, having and buying things. I would definitely need to get some tax return help if I had to factor in my beard or collection of hats when thinking about tax.
Just be thankful that don’t all have to collect and wash our clothes in urine anymore I guess!
Anyone else got any good examples of historically ridiculous taxes?  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *