(Telegraph) From beards to salt: Eight of the world’s most bizarre taxes
Countries across the world, including the UK, have a history of taxing people on the most bizarre items.
With the help of researchers at Leeds Building Society, The Telegraphhas collated a list of eight of the strangest taxes imposed over the centuries.
A beard tax was introduced in Britain in 1535 under Henry VIII. The amount collected by the monarch increased with the beard grower’s standing in society – making facial hair a status symbol. The tax was dropped but was later reintroduced by Henry’s daughter Queen Elizabeth I, who felt that any beard with more than two weeks’ worth of growth had to be taxed.
At the end of the 17th century, Russian Emperor Peter the Great also introduced a tax on men’s facial hair in a bid 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.
A controversial window tax was first introduced in the UK in the late 17th century and lasted for more than 150 years before being withdrawn in 1851.
On top of the fixed two shillings a week per house tax, homes with between 10 and 20 windows were forced to pay an extra two shillings, and if you had more than 20 windows, you’d pay four shillings more.
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.
The monarch levied between a penny and a shilling to every yard of wallpaper, and the tax lasted until 1836. Savvy taxpayers soon found a way to circumvent the tax by purchasing plain paper and stencilling a pattern on.
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.
However, all this did was make the product a preserve of the rich and wealthy. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in 1853 that the tax was finally revoked.
A tax on hats was first levied in 1784 to try and make a little more money by taxing men based on their wealth and status.
As the government felt the elite could afford to purchase more expensive hats than 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 offence and those who tried to forge a tax stamp could face the death penalty.
Regarded as one of the most unfair bills ever created, salt taxes were levied in France up until 1790. 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. It resulted in much smuggling.
Candles became an extravagance for those living in 18th century England when a charge on them was introduced. People were even forbidden from making candles themselves, but some found a way of getting around this by using animal fat to the same effect.
Today, in the American state of Arkansas, there is a 6pc 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.