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“Fun” tax facts might seem like an oxymoron, but UK fiscal history is littered with rather a few (long since repealed) quirky taxes that might bemuse you this Friday morning…

  • In 60AD Queen Boedicea led a revolt against the Roman occupation primarily because of corrupt tax collectors. Her troops allegedly killed all Roman soldiers within 100 miles.
  • It is said that Lady Godiva’s husband Leofric, Earl of Mercia, only agreed to reduce the high taxes he levied on the residents of Coventry in 1086 when her Ladyship rode naked through the streets of the town!
  • King Henry I allowed knights to opt out of their duties fight in wars by paying a tax called “scutage”. At first the tax wasn’t high, but then King John came to power and raised it to a rate of 300%. Some claim that the excessive tax rate was one of the things that contributed to the creation of the Magna Carta, which limited the king’s power.
  • Oliver Cromwell placed a tax on Royalists, who were his political opponents, taking one tenth of their property. He then used that money to fund his activities that were aimed against the Royalists.
  • The first income tax ever was introduced in 1404 in England
  • Playing cards were taxed as early as the 16th century, but in 1710, the English government dramatically raised taxes on playing cards and dice. This led to widespread forgeries of playing cards to avoid paying taxes. The tax was not removed until 1960.
  • In 1660, England placed a tax on fireplaces. The tax led to people covering their fireplaces with bricks to conceal them and avoid paying the tax. It was repealed in 1689.
  • In 1696, England implemented a window tax, taxing houses based on the number of windows they had. 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.
  • In the 1700’s, England placed a tax on bricks. Builders soon realized that they could use bigger bricks (and thus fewer bricks) to pay less tax. Soon after, the government caught on and placed a larger tax on bigger bricks. Brick taxes were finally repealed in 1850.
  • In 1712, England imposed a tax on printed wallpaper. Builders avoided the tax by hanging plain wallpaper and then painting patterns on the walls.
  • England introduced a tax on hats in 1784. To avoid the tax, hat-makers stopped calling their creations “hats”, leading to a tax on any headgear by 1804. The tax was repealed in 1811.
  • In 1789, England introduced a tax on candles. People were forbidden from making their own candles unless they obtained a license and then paid taxes on the candles they produced. The tax was repealed in 1831, leading to a more widespread popularity of candles.
  • In 1795, England put a tax on the aromatic powders that men and women put on their wigs which led to a dramatic decline in the popularity of wigs.

Got any tax facts of your own? We’d love to hear them!

 

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