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Taxes, laws and madness

by Sun’s Dragon

Nobody likes taxes except maybe the tax man. Some of the things man has been taxed on over the years and around the world beggar belief. The worst culprit seems to be England, although other countries have their eccentricities too. It seems unfair taxes go back to the dawn of time. For instance cooking oil in Ancient Egypt was taxed. Egyptians had to buy their taxed cooking oil from the Pharaoh’s monopoly, crafty old Pharaohs. 

Tax Playing Cards

Did you know?

Playing cards were taxed as early as the 16th century, but in 1710, the English government dramatically raised taxes on playing cards and dice. The tax was not removed until 1960.

You wouldn’t believe that the Brits are a nation of gamblers would you?

Here are some of the ruses the iniquitous taxmen have come up with.

Let’s get ‘em in their houses!

In 1660, England taxed fireplaces. This tax led to people covering their fireplaces with bricks to conceal them therefore avoiding the tax. This was repealed in 1689.

I wonder how many people froze to death in those 29 years?

Fireplace Algarve

Tax Windows Algarve

So after caving in on the fireplace tax, in 1696 during the reign of King William III England implemented a window tax by taxing the number of windows in each house. That led to many houses having very few windows in order to avoid paying the tax. Eventually this became a health problem and ultimately led to the tax’s repeal in 1851.

So for 155 years England lived in the dark!

As if taxing windows wasn’t bad enough, in the 1700s, the British government placed a tax on bricks. Builders began to use bigger bricks; fewer bricks meant paying less tax. Inevitably the government eventually caught on and placed a larger tax on bigger bricks. Brick taxes were finally repealed in 1850.

It’s a wonder the people didn’t revert to wattle and daub houses again!

Then in 1712, England imposed a tax on printed wallpaper. One way to avoid the tax was by hanging plain wallpaper and then painting patterns on it. However, you had to be clever because defying this law was punishable by death!

I didn’t even know they had wallpaper in those days!

Tax Candles Algarve

In 1789, England introduced a tax on candles. You had to get a license in order to make candles and you paid taxes on the candles you made, even for your own use! The tax was repealed in 1831, leading to a more widespread popularity of candles.

I wonder if they then taxed gas lamps?

Getting personal

During the Middle Ages, many European governments taxed soap and this tax remained in effect for a very long time. Great Britain didn't repeal its soap tax until 1835.

No wonder they didn’t wash themselves in those days!

Tax Soap Algarve

Henry VIII AlgarveIn 1535, King Henry VIII of England, who wore a beard himself, introduced a tax on beards. The amount of tax to be paid depended on the wearer’s social standing.

His daughter, Elizabeth I of England, taxed every man with a beard of more than two-weeks’ growth.

Then in 1705, Tsar Peter I of Russia decided that the clean-shaven look that was common in Western Europe was the way to go. So, he also introduced a beard tax, hoping to force men to adopt this new fashion of no face fungus. Those who paid the tax were required to carry a “beard token”. This was a copper or silver token with a Russian Eagle on one side and on the other, the lower part of a face with a beard.

Neither of those taxes would have gone down well in the hippy period of the 1960s!

So if they couldn’t get us with beards, how about this then? England introduced a tax on hats in 1784. Hat-makers promptly stopped calling their creations "hats" and avoided the tax. What did the canny taxman do? He brought in a tax on any headgear. The tax was only repealed in 1811.

Considering nobody would dream of going bare headed in those days, the taxman must have made a fortune!

Tax Hats Algarve

Tax Salt Algarve

Let’s “salt” ‘em

The French had a salt tax called the gabelle, which angered many and it was apparently one of the contributing factors to the French Revolution.

Salt was a very popular thing to tax because consuming it is necessary to humans. The British placed a tax on salt, and the salt tax gained worldwide attention when Ghandi staged nonviolent protests against it.

So the French lost their royals and the Brits lost India – obviously salt taxes don’t pay!

Definitely not PC!

Oliver Cromwell placed a tax on Royalists, who were his political opponents. He took one tenth of their property. Then he used that money to fund his activities that were aimed against the Royalists. Smart move!

In 1885 Canada created the Chinese Head Tax, which taxed the entry of Chinese immigrants into Canada. The tax lasted until 1923 when a law was passed banning Chinese people from entering Canada altogether - with a few exceptions. How rude!

Sex Tax – that taxman gets everywhere!

Prostitutes in France, Holland and Germany all have to pay income tax on their earnings. Lord knows how this is regulated!

In Australia you have to pay tax on sex toys but sex workers, strippers and dancers are exempt.

I wonder if Australian housewives declare themselves as prostitutes in order to evade this tax?

Prostitution Tax Sex ALgarve

Tax not Smoking China

Oddball taxes

We all know about cigarettes being taxed and in most countries this tax is exorbitant. However, in Hubei Province of China you are told what cigarette brand to smoke and if you don’t smoke – you’re taxed. That’s novel.

Now here’s a dilemma; Holland and Belgium share a border and that border often runs straight through a property – so who gets the taxes?  It seems you pay tax to the country in which your front door opens onto. So if the taxes are higher in one country – you change the layout of your house and reduce your tax bill.

Would you believe? During the times of the old Roman Empire (AD 69-79), you had to pay tax when you urinated. However, the ammonia content of the stored urine was sold at high prices so the seller paid the tax!

The mind boggles at a fart tax, but apparently Ireland and Denmark demand a tax for a cows flatulence! (And it seems there’s a law in Portugal that can get you sent to prison for peeing in the ocean!)  It’s a conundrum how they monitor these things!

Tax Cattle Fatulence

Some ancient taxes still persisted into the modern world. In 2006, China eliminated what was the oldest still-existing tax in history. An agricultural tax was created 2,600 years ago and was eliminated in 2006 to help improve the well-being of rural farmers in China.

How thoughtful!

There’s no getting away from it, taxmen were and still are creative if nothing else. It’s no wonder that many tax officials, from all countries, dislike admitting to anybody what their job is!


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