7 unusual taxes imposed through the ages

At 1st Contact Tax Refunds, we like to take a break from the norm and showcase the lighter side of business matters. Tax may have been around since ancient times, but it’s not without it’s fair share of oddities. Here are seven unusual taxes imposed through the ages.

In several US states, pumpkins are exempt from sales tax – but only if they are to be eaten (and not carved up for Halloween). Photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

1. Income Tax (for war?)
Although taxes have been around since Ancient Greece, it was Britain that first introduced Income Tax in 1798. As part of his efforts to raise funds for the war against the French forces, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger began taxing all income above £60 at 10%. His goal? To prove a formidable force against ‘The Little Corporal’,  Napoleon Bonaparte.

2. Beard tax
Russian Tsar Peter the Great introduced a ‘beard tax’ in 1698 as a way to force Russian men to embrace a decidedly ‘European’ way of way of life and culture. All men, with the exception of priests, had to pay up to 100 Rubles annually if they wanted to keep their beard. He also imposed taxes on other strange things including hats, boots, basements and marriages.

3. Window tax
In 1696, England implemented a window tax, whereby houses were taxed based on the number of windows they had. Consequently, people started building with fewer windows in order to avoid the tax. Due to the number of health problems created by the lack of fresh air, the tax was eventually repealed more than 150 years later, in 1851.

4. Urine tax
“Pecunia non olet or” is a Latin saying meaning “Money doesn’t stink!” It came about from the 1st century AD, when Roman emperor Vaspasian placed a tax on urine from public urinals, which was then sold and used for several chemical processes including tanning, whitening and cleaning.

5. Pennsylvania Alcohol Tax
The town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in the USA was devastated by two severe floods – the first in the late 19th century, and the second in 1936. In a bid to rebuild the town, the state of Pennsylvania passed a tax on alcohol, with the proceeds going towards reconstruction efforts. The tax is still implemented to this day, bringing around $200 million a year for the state.

6. Hat tax
In 1784, England introduced a tax on hats, which prompted hat-makers to stop calling their creations hats, referring to them as “headgear” instead. By 1804 there was a tax on – you guessed it – headgear. Thankfully, the tax didn’t last long after that and was repealed in 1811.

7. Pumpkin Tax
Many states in the USA, including Iowa, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have made pumpkins exempt from sales tax – but only if they are to be eaten (and not carved up for Halloween).

We’re also fortunate in this day and age to have the opportunity to claim back any overpaid tax. Did you know that one in three people living and working in the UK is due a refund? For expert assistance with your tax refund – on a strict “no refund – no fee” policy, visit 1st Contact Tax Refunds.

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