The 10 Most Stupid Taxes!

Do you hate paying taxes? Although it can feel like a large chunk of your earnings go the Government, your money does pay towards things such as education and public transport.

Harrington Brooks have found some of the most bizarre taxes that we really would detest paying for:

Early 1000s: Heregeld

Lady Godiva demonstrated against her husband’s taxes, which were known as Heregeld. This tax paid the King’s bodyguard. She did this because the people of Coventry were suffering under the heavy taxes.

At first Earl Leofric didn’t want to listen to Lady Godiva’s pleas to repeal the taxes, but promised he would – if she rides naked through Coventry. This she did, according to the folks tale, and the king repealed the taxes.

1773: Colonial taxes

The Boston Tea party was not a party, but a demonstration against the taxation of many items in the 13 colonies, but especially against the tea that the East India Co. planned to sell. The East India Co. had tax arrangements with the British Government and had an advantage over the colonists: this created a monopoly because they could undersell the American merchants.

People in Boston decided to upend 45 tons of tea into the sea. They sneaked onboard a British East India Company ship and got rid of approximately £10,000 worth of tea. That tea would be worth £953,000 today.

This is one of the historic events that shaped the United States, led to the American Revolution and created the United States we know today.

1696: Window tax

I’m sure you have noticed older buildings that have their windows bricked up. Back in the 17th century, William III imposed a tax on houses that have more than six windows. He wanted this tax to help fund the wars in Ireland and on the continent.

These homeowners decided to instead brick up the windows. The tax was only repealed in 1851.

1995: Illegal drug tax (USA)

Tennessee joined 23 other US states on 1 January 2005 when they imposed a tax for possession of illegal drugs. Those who bought drugs had 48 hours during which to approach the Department of Revenue and pay tax.

They levied the tax per gram: $3.50 for marijuana, $50 for cocaine, and $200 for meth and crack cocaine. The department did not ask for identification and revenue employees were not allowed to report people who paid this tax. The tax was scrapped in 2006 after a judge deemed it unconstitutional.

1988: Removal of Mortgage Interest Relief

The Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1983-9, Nigel Lawson, ended double mortgage interest relief, in 1988. Mortgage interest relief at source, also known as Miras, was a subsidy to mortgage borrowers. After the abolishment people were buying properties to take advantage of the tax relief. One year after the relief was scrapped, the interest rates had increased to 15 per cent and many homeowners were facing repossession.

Late 1970s: The 98 per cent tax rate

The late 70s had a top income tax rate of 60 per cent. There was also an ‘investment income surcharge’ of 15 per cent, and no incentive to increase profits – almost everything was taxed. The 98 per cent tax rate led to high levels of non-compliance among the public and was finally abolished by Nigel Lawson in 1984.

1689: Tax incentives for gin production

William and Mary, the protestant monarchs, tried to discourage the importation of brandy. They did this because they disapproved of the Catholic French. Instead of brandy they tried to promote the production of gin by abolishing taxes and licensing fees.

The poor became enamoured of gin because of it became so cheap. This led to drunkenness, vice and poverty. The government tried to reintroduce the tax but that led to illegal production of cheap and poor quality gin. This only stopped in 1751 when the Tippling Act introduced reasonable prices, taxes and regulation of production.

1700s: Scottish whisky tax

Because of rising taxes on malt and whisky production in the early 18th century, about 400 distillers decided to go underground. There were only 8 licensed distilleries in 1777 and underground distilling carried on for 150 years before the Excise Act was passed in 1823. This act legalised whisky distilling but only for a £10 license fee.

That act nipped smuggling in the bud over the following 100 years.

1990: Poll tax

Margaret Thatcher’s government created the poll tax in 1989. Instead of paying tax on the value of the property, people had to pay tax on how many individuals were living in the property. Poorer people ended up paying more than the rich and this created animosity: about 30 per cent of people in some areas, including a Labour MP, did not want to pay this poll tax. They marched to Trafalgar Square on 31 March 1990 and demanded the repeal of this tax. Margaret Thatcher’s replacement got rid of the tax and brought in the council tax, which was based on the capital value of the property, in 1993-4.

1783: Hat tax

In 1783-4 Prime Minister Pitt the Younger introduced an excise duty on men’s hats. He did this to raise money easily for the government. The government charged retailers in London £2 a year. Retailers in the rest of the country were charged 5 shillings. The government collected the duty through a stamped ticket that was fixed to the lining of the hat. The public were not happy with this type of tax and they demanded amendments to it. 1804 saw recasting of the statutory definitions and the tax was finally repealed in 1811.