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Unusual Taxes Over the Centuries

(photo by Fahd Murtaza@Flickr)

They say there are two things that are certain in life…..death and taxes.  And for centuries there have been all kinds of things that have been taxed. Here are some unusual ones.

Card tax – beginning in the 16th Century in England playing cards was a popular way to spend the evening. Anything that’s popular or that people like to do is a prime target for a tax. Each deck of cards was subject to a tax and the proof that the tax had been paid was a stamp on the ace of spades.

Many states place a sales tax on candy, but some states like Illinois and Washington have decided that any candy that contains flour or grain or needs refrigeration is not taxable. So a Nestles’ chocolate bar would be taxable but a Nestles’ Crunch bar would not. Licorice contains flour so it’s not taxed. Kit Kat bars have wafers made from flour – so they’re not taxed. They’re all in the candy section, but you’d need a spreadsheet to figure out which ones will cost you extra.

Great Britain had a hat tax in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. The theory was that wealthy people would likely have several nice hats and they’d have to pay a tax on each one they owned. Plus hat shops paid a tax for the right to sell hats.

At about the same time Great Britain also had a window tax. Again the target was the wealthy. Homes with more windows obviously indicated the residents were well to do and could afford to help out the economy of the country by paying their “fair share.”

England even had a beard tax at one time. Anyone with more than a two weeks growth of beard would be subject to the tax. Women were exempt.




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