VAT on getting married! We've had worse

Sounds absurd! But not as absurd as some taxes that have come to fruition in recent and not so recent years.

“I won’t keep you long” is what Henry VIII said to his wives around the time he introduced the Beard Tax in 1535. In an attempt to further understand the current tax anomalies that have been proposed (e.g. bedroom tax), it’s important to understand if there is a history of illogical taxes.

Firstly, the total amount of taxes that we currently have in the UK appears to be an unknown, the only thing we do know, is that Britain may just have a history of the most absurd tax laws known to man.

Here is a taster; in 1662 there was a fireplace tax (at 2 shillings per fireplace), taxes on wallpaper, a Brick Tax (4 shillings for every 1,000 bricks), a Hat Tax, a Candle Tax and even a Soap Tax that levied 1 penny per pound of soap. In the 18th and 19th century there was a tax on the amount of windows a house had to determine its social, cultural and architectural force, which is why many older properties bricked them up.

But it appears that these strange taxes have carried on into the 21st century, albeit in a different format. We now have tax on a sandwich when it’s hot and not when it’s cold, a tax on biscuits which is why the Jaffa Cake was rigorously tested to prove it was a cake and therefore maintain a tax free status.

Does it not sound absurd that we have a tax for digging a hole (aggregate tax) and then a tax for filling it in (land fill tax) or a more recent tax on energy drinks that enhance performance or recovery. Maybe we should have introduced a Hoodie Tax before the London riots of 2011.

My conclusion is this; there is no doubt that these tax laws have a very British feel to them, it just becomes so taxing to keep up with them, especially the absurd ones which leave accountants scratching their heads. Surely we need to learn from the past and apply a common sense approach.


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