With the budget now out of the way I thought it might be amusing to tell you of some of the strangest taxes that have been imposed upon our long suffering population. I know that we all imagine that taxation is a modern thing, well 20th century at least, but far from it.
One of the earliest was known as ‘scutage’ and was levied in the reign of King John and was levied as a charge in exchange for freedom from military service to the Crown, was referred to in the Magna Carta and became obsolete by the 14th century. One well known to most of us is the window tax, which was the reason so many period houses had windows which were bricked up, this is how the expression” daylight robbery” came into everyday use. The window tax lasted a remarkable 156 years, before being repealed.
To fund his war in the American Colonies George the third brought in a brick tax and was levied on the manufacturers of bricks, who in an attempt keep payment low, made them bigger, this was thwarted by government who limited the size to 150 cubic inches. Another weird and wonderful tax was the “hat tax” and was a tax on the wealthy. The government tracked the number of hats sold by issuing revenue stamps to milliners that they then pasted inside their goods, forgery of these meant the death penalty!
The wallpaper company of Mr Osborne’s family would not have liked the tax on painted, printed or stained paper used for wall hangings, which was imposed during the reign of Queen Anne. Builders got round this by buying untaxed plain paper and stencilling it by hand after it was pasted onto the walls.
However one of the biggest earners was a soap tax and the revenue it raised was proportionately the same as alcohol does today, I’ll bet there were a few smelly people in the period before Gladstone abolished it in 1853.
The current Chancellor nearly joined the illustrious ranks of his predecessors with his “pasty Tax, which saw a tsunami of public fury, at least he did not come up with any weird and wonderful taxes yesterday.