From high taxes on the price of daylight in your home to hearth tax, hat tax, and modern days water taxes - unfair times for unfair taxes - a history of taxing in Ireland.
Throughout the ages, Ireland has experienced taxes and charges of all shapes and sizes. If we venture all the way back to 1169 there was a tax placed on windows. This tax was introduced to England, Wales, and Ireland and was decided on how many windows a house had. Fortunately for those who dwelled in meager cottages with 1 or 2 windows, they were exempt from the window tax.
Houses with up to 20 windows were struck with an annual tax of 4 shillings while houses with more than 20 windows had to stump up 8 shillings. In the 18th century, the tax increased where houses with up to 30 windows had to pay a tax of 10 shillings while houses with over 30 windows had to pay the staggering amount of 20 shillings!
The term daylight robbery is said to come from the fact that householders started blocking up their windows in order to avoid the excess tax. Some of those blocked up windows can still be seen today in many Georgian era houses across Ireland.
The window tax met at first with weak resistance but as the years rolled on the window tax gradually increased until strong protest led to its abolishment in 1851.
While you may think a tax on windows is a bit extreme there was also a tax placed on the hearth in the home.
In 1662 Irish households were slapped with a hearth tax of 2 shillings. Like the window tax, the hearth tax was decided on the size of the home. Unlike the window tax that lasted for centuries, the hearth tax did not last long when people got fed up of being burned by this tax and by 1689 it was abolished.
Motor tax is something all motorists must pay in order to legally drive on the roads but, in Georgina Dublin a different form of tax applied to a different form of transport.
45 shillings was the amount chair owners had to pay annually in order to lawfully use them on the streets. The sedan chair was a popular mode of transport among the elite of Georgian Dublin who used the chair, carried by chairmen, to navigate the narrow lanes where a horse and carriage were unable to fit. The tax paid by owners of sedan chairs went straight into a trust for the Rotunda Hospital.
Miserly taxes are not confined to the distant past. In 1982 the Minister for Finance John Bruton unwisely intended to include a tax on children's shoes in that year's budget. There was strong opposition to the proposal and the Fine Gale Labour coalition government collapsed when the contentious budget failed to get passed.
Ireland is not the only country in the world to experience the comings and goings of comically unfair taxes. In Britain, during the 18th century, a tax was placed on playing cards. Cards were stamped with the royal insignia but to dodge the tax many card players forged their own cards. This tax bizarrely remained in place until 1960!
From 1784 to 1811 a hat tax was in place across Britain in which hat sellers had to buy a special selling license. London hat sellers were punished with the dearest license at £2 while in the rest of Britain hat sellers had only to pay 5 shillings. The hat tax was not to be laughed at because the death penalty was the punishment for those who forged a hat tax license.
Hipsters in the Russia of Tsar Peter found themselves out of pocket for sporting facial hair when a beard tax was introduced in 1698. In order to prove they paid the beard tax, they had to carry with them at all times, a beard token!
In recent years Ireland has experienced water charges and the backlash to it but, a charge, or rather a tax, on water can be traced back to the 13th century. In 1244 chief governor of Ireland Maurice Fitzgerald was hell-bent on creating a water scheme for the 'King's city of Dublin.' He instructed the city sheriff to source the best water and that it be financed through a water tax imposed on the city dwellers. Fitzgerald also instructed the sheriff to arrest anyone who resisted paying the water tax.
Those were unfair times for unfair taxes, thankfully we don't live in an age where our windows and hearths are taxed as well as our beards and sedan chairs.
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