5 Strange Things That Were Once Taxed

Including ... beards?
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2018 6:02 PM CDT
Beards, Clocks, and Other Odd Things That Were Once Taxed
This person could have been taxed on two different things.   (Getty Images / SIphotography)

If you currently sport a beard, just be glad you're not living in England a few centuries ago. King Henry VIII introduced the first beard tax in 1535, in an attempt to turn the facial hair into a status symbol. Though he later did away with the tax, Queen Elizabeth I introduced her own tax on beards left to grow longer than two weeks. And Russia's Peter I introduced a facial hair tax in 1698 in an attempt to dissuade men from growing beards or mustaches. It was repealed in 1772. That's just one of the 10 weird things rounded up by Listverse that used to be taxed. A sampling of the rest:

  • Clocks and watches: The British government passed an act in 1797 that required people to pay taxes every three months for their clocks and watches. The unpopular tax was repealed less than a year later, but in that time, tavern owners benefited—many put up large clocks in their establishments to draw in people who, having hid their own watches to avoid the tax, needed to check the time.

  • Fireplaces: Another controversial tax in England and Wales, this one lasted from 1662 to 1689. Tax collectors went so far as to enter homes to confirm the number of fireplaces needing to be taxed. Even hospitals and homes for the poor were taxed for their fireplaces.
  • Salt: Salt was taxed in France from 1295 until the tax was abolished during the French Revolution, but it was later reinstated by Napoleon and not repealed until 1949. Referred to as the gabelle, the salt tax was considered to be one of the causes of the revolution.
  • Hair powder: England introduced the tax in 1795 to help fund its war against France. Anyone who used hair powder was required to pay the equivalent of $167 per year. The number of people paying the tax dwindled from 46,664 in 1812 to just 997 in 1855, as more and more people opted to ditch wigs for natural hair. It was abolished in 1869.
Click for the complete list. (Or check out six weird tax deductions.)

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