Tax Avoidance (UK)

The Panama Papers have recently revealed what we have known all along. People don’t like to pay their taxes. In addition, rich people go out of their way to not pay their taxes. They will move house, go to a foreign country and assume a new identity-all to avoid paying the tax man. But in the end, they get rumbled/found out. Really now, wouldn’t it just be easier to your doggone tax bill? All this tax talk has gotten me thinking about tax. Ok, let’s do this.

Roman Tax Collection

When in Rome….some wealthy citizens of the Roman Empire thought it was a far better idea to bury their cash, jewellery and expensive furnishings rather than pay their dues. Oh those crazy Romans. Who would NOT want to pay their taxes? The Romans, that’s who.

The Beard Tax

Bet you didn’t know that Peter the Great disliked facial hair SO much that it allegedly inspired him to bring in a beard tax in 1698. For centuries, Russian men (and maybe some women too) had worn long flowing beards. But the young Tsar felt that a clean shaven look was more Western and more modern. Did you hear that Prince Harry? I am talking to YOU. Anyway, some Russians were able to fork out the 100 rouble annual beard tax were given a special medal as proof of payment with the words, ‘The beard is a useless burden.’ But of course, if you wanted to avoid the tax, you just shaved. Duh.

Also some say that Henry VIII introduced the beard tax in 1535 and again later by his daughter Elizabeth I-but am not sure if this is true as it does not appear to be backed up by any contemporary documents (that I can find). Truth be told, I am not a huge fan of beards-not even on male models. Ok, maybe THIS male model. He is kind of rocking this beard.  Doesn’t he look like Jesus? Lordy.

Window Tax

The theory behind England’s 1696 window tax was simply this: rich people have bigger houses and therefore have more windows. Tax the heck out of them. However, reluctant taxpayers soon began bricking up their windows to AVOID paying. Ghost windows from this era can still be seen on old buildings today. Actually, it even became fashionable to brick up your windows (think: keeping up with the tax avoiders next door/Jones’) How funny is that? Pretty hilarious if you ask me.

Bricked up window

Wallpaper Tax

In 18th Century Britain, people dodged a tax on wallpaper (which was fashionable then) by hanging plain paper and painting it by hand. If there is a will there is a way…to avoid paying your taxes, that is.

Hearth Tax

The hearth tax was introduced in England and Wales in 1662 on the premise that it was easier to count the number of fireplaces/hearts in a house than the number of people. The money then went right into the private purse King Charles II-which caused a bit of upset. As a result, some blocked their chimneys or knocked them down to avoid paying-this was a massive risk as it reportedly led to fires. Plus, they were cold-got hypothermia and probably died.  Anyway, this was a pretty unpopular tax and ran into trouble when the newly established Hearth Office was burned down during the Great Fire of London. It was later abolished after 27 years.

Playing Card Tax

Yes. This was actually a thing or rather a tax.  King James I back in the 17th century came up with the notion to tax playing cards.  He thought it led to bad behaviour and encouraged gambling. It does. But so do a lot of things. An official stamp was printed on the Ace of Spades to show the tax had been paid. But John Blacklin-a card maker came up with the idea of simply omitting the Ace of Spades from the pack to get round paying. He offered it for sale separately instead. But the jury was not impressed. Poor chap was sentenced to death in 1805 for his crime. While in prison, it is reported that he often played 52 card pick-up. Yup.

There were more loads of taxes imposed, too many to list here. We pay a lot of tax here in the UK. Oh and we know about tax in the US-I mean, why do you think we (Americans) left the UK? But we still cool. Anyway, am happy to report that the US and the UK have managed to maintain a ‘special relationship.’ We are like BFF’s. And that is the truth.





  1. Phil Taylor · April 9, 2016

    A very timely post as annual taxes are due in about a week in the States. I’ve got no problem with them, but I do believe a flat tax would be more fair.

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