Monday, April 1, 2013

Tax Trivia Time!

Tax Day 2013 is fast approaching. To lighten the mood for this most dour of holidays, we thought it might be nice to take a look at some funny/interesting tax trivia.

Source: Fox Broadcasting Company
For example, in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, in the days before the income tax, Britain put in place some bizarre levies as roundabout methods of taxing wealth.  These included:
  • A window tax;
  • A wallpaper tax;
  • A candle tax; 
  • A hat tax (which led to some wily hat purveyors referring to their hats by a variety of non-"hat" names)
  • And, the ever popular wig powder tax, which contributed to the decline in popularity of powdered wigs (except among members of the judiciary, of course).  
Russia's Peter the Great put a tax on beards in the early eighteenth century (see the "beard token" signifying payment of the tax), in the hope of persuading Russian men to adopt the clean-shaven style popular in western European nations at the time.

Many European countries had in place a soap tax during the Middle Ages, perhaps not the best policy in retrospect given the unhygienic living conditions in cities at the time.  This tax was not repealed in Britain until 1853.

Of course, there are still strange taxes today.  Tennessee and North Carolina, for example, have a special tax on illegal drugs, which the states try to enforce by assuring drug dealers that revenue employees cannot report their activities to law enforcement.  (Although Tennessee's tax was recently ruled unconstitutional.)

Lastly, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the original 1040 form from 1913 when the income tax was first implemented in the U.S.  To modern eyes, this looks remarkably simple, yet members of the Congress that enacted the income tax needed assistance from the House Sergeant at Arms to be sure they filled out the form correctly.

Happy Tax Day, everyone!

(Source for British tax trivia: British History Online,         

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