Bizarre Taxes

People have paid some bizarre taxes over the years

As we move into a new financial year, savers can once again take advantage by putting up to £15,240 into a tax-free§ individual savings account (ISA).

In celebration of tax-free§ savings we have taken a look back through history at eight of the most bizarre taxes imposed over the centuries.

1. Beard tax

At the back end of the 17th century, Russian Emperor Peter the Great introduced a tax on men’s facial hair in an attempt to modernise the country’s society. All bearded men were forced to the pay the charge and carry around a copper or bronze token to show they had paid the tax.

Beard tax was also introduced back in 1535 when Henry VIII introduced a tax on men’s facial hair. The amount collected by the Tudor monarch increased with the beard-grower’s standing in society – making facial hair quite the status symbol. The tax fell by the wayside but was later reintroduced by Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth I, who felt that any beard with over two weeks’ of growth had to be taxed.

2. Windows

The controversial window tax was first established in the late 17th century, lasting for more than 150 years before being withdrawn in 1851. On top of the fixed two shillings a week house tax, King William brought in a charge on homes with more than 10 windows. Those with between 10 and 20 were forced to pay an extra two shillings, and if you had over 20 windows you’d be paying four shillings more.

3. Wallpaper

Not one to miss an opportunity, Queen Anne’s government introduced a tax on wallpaper when homeowners during the 18th century began to decorate their rooms with patterned paper rather than fabrics. Queen Anne levied between a penny and a shilling to every yard of wallpaper, and the tax lasted up until 1836. Savvy taxpayers soon found a way to circumvent the tax by purchasing plain paper and stencilling a pattern on.

4. Soap

Throughout the 16th century, making speckled soap was banned in Britain because it depleted the country’s reserve of tallow trees. As speckled soap was much easier and cheaper to produce than both coarse and sweet soaps, the government introduced a tax to try and slow down production. All this did was make the product a preserve of the rich and wealthy, and the government some money. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in 1853 that the tax was finally repealed, and the poor could once more feel clean.

Although a tax on soap might seem like something from the history book, it is actually being enforced in modern day Hungary. In a host of unorthodox bills put in place by the government last October, the European Commission have warned the country that the environmental fee may curb their financial growth – as well as their hygienic rights.

5. Hats

The tax on hats was first levied in 1784 to try and make a little more money from men depending on their wealth and status. As the government felt the social elite could afford to purchase much more expensive hats compared to the poor, a stamp duty was enforced with up to two shillings being added to the cost. Not paying the hat tax was a punishable offense and those who tried to forge a tax stamp may have been sentenced to death.

6. Candle

Candles became an extravagance for those living in 18th century England, when the powers that be brought in a charge on them. It was even forbidden to make them yourself. However a resourceful few found a way of getting round this by using animal fat to the same effect.

7. Salt

Regarded as one of the most unfair bills ever to be created, salt or gabelle taxes were used in France up until 1790. At first it was imposed on all commodities but later was limited to the purchase of salt. The amount charged differed depending on where the salt came from, with Atlantic salt being the most expensive. King Charles V was the first to make this tax a permanent fixture, with every person over the age of eight forced to purchase a certain amount of salt each week at a state-fixed price. The salt tax brought a lot of rebellion to the country, with many attempting to smuggle the seasoning over the border to avoid paying charges.

8. Piercings

If you are thinking of getting a piercing done in Arkansas, then think again as the US State has a 6% tax on any body part pierced. The charge was first introduced in 2005 and covers all forms of piercings, as well as tattoos and hair removal treatments.

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