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  • 9 strangest taxes in history

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 15, 2021

    Despite the reputation it has for some, Tax is a deeply fascinating area of accountancy and has a rich and unusual history. Here we list some of our favourite examples of strange taxation throughout history…

    Urine tax

    This tax was introduced in Ancient Rome. Back then, human urine was viewed as a valuable commodity. It had many uses: tanning, laundering, and even teeth brushing.

    It started after entrepreneur types were discovered to be collecting the liquid waste. Both Emperors - Nero and Vespasian - noticed this and levied a tax on it’s purchase. It’s widely believed that this led to the popular Latin phrase Pecunia non olet, i.e. ‘money does not stink’.

    Being a coward tax

    From around 1100, English medieval knights could opt out of fighting a war by paying for the privilege. It’s official name was ‘Scutage’ but was commonly known as ‘cowardice tax’. It would enable one to be let out of military service to the King.

    After its inception the Scutage system evolved into a general tax on knights’ land - by the 13th century. By the 14th century, however, this tax became redundant and faded away.

    Beard tax

    In 1698 Emperor Peter I of Russia created the beard tax. It was thought to be a move that would help westernise the appearance of Russian society, as he deemed it an old-fashioned fashion choice.

    Those who wanted to keep their facial hair had to pay their way and were given a token to carry as proof of payment. Henry VIII had also brought out a similar tax for Tudor England. Given the costs associated, beards quickly became a symbol of stature and wealth.

    Window tax

    This tax was first introduced in England in 1696. It was intended to be quite a liberal tax as those with smaller houses would pay less or be exempt.

    This certainly proved to be the case when applied to the rural poor, but didn’t really help the urban poor. In more densely populated areas it was rare for the working classes to live in individual homes. They would often live in large tenement buildings, amongst many others, and under the terms of the tax this was considered to be one house so they’d be subjected to heavy window tax assessments.

    This incredibly unpopular tax led to the removal of windows and much natural light, to prevent paying the extra money. The negative effects of the lack of natural light and ventilation led to a growing movement which successfully stopped the tax in 1851.

    Knowledge tax

    In 1815 Britain started to tax newspaper purchases. This was initially designed to tax the wealthy. However, this did not work out that way.

    The tax quickly proved to be counterproductive, as it put a huge pressure on the press by reducing the circulation and made it less accessible. Plus it was a form of censorship for those too poor to afford it. The tax was abolished in 1855.

    Hat tax

    A hat tax was introduced in 1784 and was aimed at raising revenue for the government in a way that would mostly correspond to a person’s wealth.

    At this point in history it was the rich who could afford numerous hats, whereas the poor might have one cheap hat, or none at all.

    Heavy fines were doled out to those who failed to pay. This led to some hat-makers rename their creations. However, in response, a tax on any ‘headgear’ was introduced by 1804. The tax was repealed in 1811.

    Playing cards tax

    Yes, believe it or not people were taxed for playing cards!

    This was in force from as early as the 16th century. Furthermore, in 1710, the English government increased the tax on playing cards and dice. Inevitably, this led to mass forgeries of playing cards. The tax was not removed until 1960.

    Wallpaper tax

    Brought out in 1712, Britain taxed anyone who bought patterned, painted or printed wallpaper. This tax was introduced into Britain due to the fact that wallpaper provided a cheap alternative to tapestry or panelling, so the government saw a new opportunity to raise revenue.

    This led to people finding creative ways to avoid the tax, such as – using plain paper and then having painted after applying. The tax was abolished in 1836.

    Clock tax

    No doubt similar to the hat tax, the clock was introduced to tax the wealthy. In 1797, the British Clock Tax was applied to all timepieces, such as watches and clocks.

    The annual tax rate was two shillings and sixpence for a standard watch, and up to ten shillings for a gold watch. Clocks costing more than twenty shillings were rated at five shillings.

    And there we have it! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of Tax. If you are interested in discovering more or starting a career in tax please visit our courses pages. 

  • 9 strangest taxes in history

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 15, 2021

    Despite the reputation it has for some, Tax is a deeply fascinating area of accountancy and has a rich and unusual history. Here we list some of our favourite examples of strange taxation throughout history…

    Urine tax

    This tax was introduced in Ancient Rome. Back then, human urine was viewed as a valuable commodity. It had many uses: tanning, laundering, and even teeth brushing.

    It started after entrepreneur types were discovered to be collecting the liquid waste. Both Emperors - Nero and Vespasian - noticed this and levied a tax on it’s purchase. It’s widely believed that this led to the popular Latin phrase Pecunia non olet, i.e. ‘money does not stink’.

    Being a coward tax

    From around 1100, English medieval knights could opt out of fighting a war by paying for the privilege. It’s official name was ‘Scutage’ but was commonly known as ‘cowardice tax’. It would enable one to be let out of military service to the King.

    After its inception the Scutage system evolved into a general tax on knights’ land - by the 13th century. By the 14th century, however, this tax became redundant and faded away.

    Beard tax

    In 1698 Emperor Peter I of Russia created the beard tax. It was thought to be a move that would help westernise the appearance of Russian society, as he deemed it an old-fashioned fashion choice.

    Those who wanted to keep their facial hair had to pay their way and were given a token to carry as proof of payment. Henry VIII had also brought out a similar tax for Tudor England. Given the costs associated, beards quickly became a symbol of stature and wealth.

    Window tax

    This tax was first introduced in England in 1696. It was intended to be quite a liberal tax as those with smaller houses would pay less or be exempt.

    This certainly proved to be the case when applied to the rural poor, but didn’t really help the urban poor. In more densely populated areas it was rare for the working classes to live in individual homes. They would often live in large tenement buildings, amongst many others, and under the terms of the tax this was considered to be one house so they’d be subjected to heavy window tax assessments.

    This incredibly unpopular tax led to the removal of windows and much natural light, to prevent paying the extra money. The negative effects of the lack of natural light and ventilation led to a growing movement which successfully stopped the tax in 1851.

    Knowledge tax

    In 1815 Britain started to tax newspaper purchases. This was initially designed to tax the wealthy. However, this did not work out that way.

    The tax quickly proved to be counterproductive, as it put a huge pressure on the press by reducing the circulation and made it less accessible. Plus it was a form of censorship for those too poor to afford it. The tax was abolished in 1855.

    Hat tax

    A hat tax was introduced in 1784 and was aimed at raising revenue for the government in a way that would mostly correspond to a person’s wealth.

    At this point in history it was the rich who could afford numerous hats, whereas the poor might have one cheap hat, or none at all.

    Heavy fines were doled out to those who failed to pay. This led to some hat-makers rename their creations. However, in response, a tax on any ‘headgear’ was introduced by 1804. The tax was repealed in 1811.

    Playing cards tax

    Yes, believe it or not people were taxed for playing cards!

    This was in force from as early as the 16th century. Furthermore, in 1710, the English government increased the tax on playing cards and dice. Inevitably, this led to mass forgeries of playing cards. The tax was not removed until 1960.

    Wallpaper tax

    Brought out in 1712, Britain taxed anyone who bought patterned, painted or printed wallpaper. This tax was introduced into Britain due to the fact that wallpaper provided a cheap alternative to tapestry or panelling, so the government saw a new opportunity to raise revenue.

    This led to people finding creative ways to avoid the tax, such as – using plain paper and then having painted after applying. The tax was abolished in 1836.

    Clock tax

    No doubt similar to the hat tax, the clock was introduced to tax the wealthy. In 1797, the British Clock Tax was applied to all timepieces, such as watches and clocks.

    The annual tax rate was two shillings and sixpence for a standard watch, and up to ten shillings for a gold watch. Clocks costing more than twenty shillings were rated at five shillings.

    And there we have it! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of Tax. If you are interested in discovering more or starting a career in tax please visit our courses pages. 

  • Apprenticeships are for everyone

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 15, 2021

    Haider Ali is a management accounting apprentice and won the Rising Star Award at the WorldSkills UK Diversity & Inclusion Heroes Awards 2020. He’s passionate about raising awareness of apprenticeships within his community, and this is his story.

    When I was in sixth form, I was an academic pupil achieving A*/As across the board so university seemed like the default option for me. It was just expected by my teachers, my peers and my parents.

    It was only when I went to a career’s fair in Year 12 that I realised there were other options out there like Apprenticeships. I was suddenly told “You can get qualifications whilst working and earning at the same time - debt free!”.

    This all seemed too good to be true at first and, if anything, I wondered why more people weren’t doing this. For me, it seemed like a no brainer and so really piqued my interest.

    So…. Apprenticeships are for everyone?

    After that, I looked into the Apprenticeship route further and decided I wanted to apply, using my 5 secured university offers as a safety net. I was keen to prove that I could make a success of it, despite it being a relatively new route.

    At first, I wasn’t successful with a lot of the initial applications I submitted due to a lack of experience, but I kept persevering. Rolls Royce was the last company I applied for and luckily, I secured the Apprenticeship in the end! That’s where I am now; I’m currently in my final year.

    Since I’ve started the programme I have been exposed to such a breadth of experience and knowledge. I have met so many fantastic people and built up my business acumen which has only added to what I’ve learnt through studying.

    The Apprenticeship programme itself is four and a half years long. So far, I’ve completed my Level 4 AAT and now I’m working on completing the Level 7 CIMA qualification to bring me to completion.

    Improving the lack of diversity

    As I was progressing through my Apprenticeship however, I realised there was a noticeable lack of diversity within the space. Prior to applying, I had never met or heard of any Asian apprentices, let alone an academic one who turned down university.

    From my experience, there seems to be a real misconception in my community as a South Asian, but also in the wider BAME community, that Apprenticeships are only for “blue collar” jobs such as construction. There's this idea that they are suited only to those who didn’t achieve “good grades” at school and are deemed as “inferior”, compared to a university degree when it comes to applying for a good job.

    I want to demystify this misconception, because it’s totally wrong. I want to inspire people to look at these opportunities differently and show that there are so many fantastic career options available through Apprenticeships, open to absolutely everyone.

    Luckily, Rolls Royce are very keen on this too. Every apprentice is automatically enrolled as a STEM ambassador allowing you to volunteer in schools in your local area. I was really keen to get involved, so I’ve done quite a few events over the years as an apprentice.

    I thought to myself:

    People in my community need to hear more from those belonging to underrepresented groups in the earlier stages of their career. I have more in common with them than a CEO, for example. They’ll hopefully see that they too can achieve whatever they put their mind to and I can act as the type of representation I wish I had seen when I was younger

    One of the highlights was going back to my primary school for an event, talking to some of my old teachers and even my younger brothers! I also went into my old secondary school (pre-lockdown) to help tutor GCSE Maths. I’m in a unique space to help and inspire others to look into working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) careers.

    Even if my interactions inspired one person to apply for an Apprenticeship, it would have been worth it. In fact, if it wasn’t for an assembly Rolls-Royce did at my sixth form on their apprenticeships, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now! Hopefully, I can do the same for someone else.

    Improving self esteem

    I have seen people from BAME backgrounds suffer from imposter syndrome, including myself. We can often feel like we aren’t as good as we actually are and that our success is down to luck rather than our hard work. It can feel especially tough when you are working in an industry that is dominated by people who don’t look like you. You begin to question your self-worth and whether ‘someone like me’ truly belongs in a space.

    However, many individuals have smashed through the glass ceiling and are swimming against the tide. And it’s those people who should be celebrated as they can inspire others to do the same. Role models are so important as I’m a firm believer you can only seek inspiration from what you can see in the world.

    My personal drive and ambition come from my first role models: my parents. They have instilled the importance of hard work in me from a young age. I’ve seen how much they’ve sacrificed moving to the UK from Pakistan and the new life they’ve built so that I can have access to a good education and even be writing this blog now. They’ve always made me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to and that’s exactly what I want for others.

    Wise words for a potential apprentice...

    Don’t let the world tell you what your version of success should look like. Follow your gut and do what makes you happy.

    Pursue what you’re passionate about and don’t get too influenced by what others are thinking or saying. Dream big and realise that you can break into any space you want to, even if you’re not represented there currently. You could be the next trailblazer.

    Long terms goals

    My long-term goal is to see more diversity within Apprenticeships.

    The stats around how many BAME apprentices there are in the UK still requires a lot of improvement. It just shows that for many, university is still seen as the only route to success.

    I think this reflects that many parents in these families (particularly those who have immigrated to the UK) don’t always have the latest information about Apprenticeships, given they are still quite new. I want to help change that.

    We need to make sure that schools are communicating the right types of messages to their pupils. From a young age, children should be made aware that you can be an academic apprentice and the wide range of industries Apprenticeships exist in, for example.

    Some of my teachers wanted me to go to Oxford or Cambridge, but I wanted practical business experience and a debt-free education! I want to smash the stigma that Apprenticeships are somehow the ‘wrong’ choice for those from BAME backgrounds. They’re absolutely not and everyone should have a fair chance to decide whether or not to pursue one.

    I try to do everything I can to facilitate change in the Diversity & inclusion/Apprenticeship space and have seen many other inspiring individuals doing some great things. Whilst there is still a lot of work to do, I’ve begun to see some of the barriers I personally faced weaken and I’m optimistic that one day they will be eliminated entirely.

  • 9 strangest taxes in history

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 15, 2021

    Despite the reputation it has for some, Tax is a deeply fascinating area of accountancy and has a rich and unusual history. Here we list some of our favourite examples of strange taxation throughout history…

    Urine tax

    This tax was introduced in Ancient Rome. Back then, human urine was viewed as a valuable commodity. It had many uses: tanning, laundering, and even teeth brushing.

    It started after entrepreneur types were discovered to be collecting the liquid waste. Both Emperors - Nero and Vespasian - noticed this and levied a tax on it’s purchase. It’s widely believed that this led to the popular Latin phrase Pecunia non olet, i.e. ‘money does not stink’.

    Being a coward tax

    From around 1100, English medieval knights could opt out of fighting a war by paying for the privilege. It’s official name was ‘Scutage’ but was commonly known as ‘cowardice tax’. It would enable one to be let out of military service to the King.

    After its inception the Scutage system evolved into a general tax on knights’ land - by the 13th century. By the 14th century, however, this tax became redundant and faded away.

    Beard tax

    In 1698 Emperor Peter I of Russia created the beard tax. It was thought to be a move that would help westernise the appearance of Russian society, as he deemed it an old-fashioned fashion choice.

    Those who wanted to keep their facial hair had to pay their way and were given a token to carry as proof of payment. Henry VIII had also brought out a similar tax for Tudor England. Given the costs associated, beards quickly became a symbol of stature and wealth.

    Window tax

    This tax was first introduced in England in 1696. It was intended to be quite a liberal tax as those with smaller houses would pay less or be exempt.

    This certainly proved to be the case when applied to the rural poor, but didn’t really help the urban poor. In more densely populated areas it was rare for the working classes to live in individual homes. They would often live in large tenement buildings, amongst many others, and under the terms of the tax this was considered to be one house so they’d be subjected to heavy window tax assessments.

    This incredibly unpopular tax led to the removal of windows and much natural light, to prevent paying the extra money. The negative effects of the lack of natural light and ventilation led to a growing movement which successfully stopped the tax in 1851.

    Knowledge tax

    In 1815 Britain started to tax newspaper purchases. This was initially designed to tax the wealthy. However, this did not work out that way.

    The tax quickly proved to be counterproductive, as it put a huge pressure on the press by reducing the circulation and made it less accessible. Plus it was a form of censorship for those too poor to afford it. The tax was abolished in 1855.

    Hat tax

    A hat tax was introduced in 1784 and was aimed at raising revenue for the government in a way that would mostly correspond to a person’s wealth.

    At this point in history it was the rich who could afford numerous hats, whereas the poor might have one cheap hat, or none at all.

    Heavy fines were doled out to those who failed to pay. This led to some hat-makers rename their creations. However, in response, a tax on any ‘headgear’ was introduced by 1804. The tax was repealed in 1811.

    Playing cards tax

    Yes, believe it or not people were taxed for playing cards!

    This was in force from as early as the 16th century. Furthermore, in 1710, the English government increased the tax on playing cards and dice. Inevitably, this led to mass forgeries of playing cards. The tax was not removed until 1960.

    Wallpaper tax

    Brought out in 1712, Britain taxed anyone who bought patterned, painted or printed wallpaper. This tax was introduced into Britain due to the fact that wallpaper provided a cheap alternative to tapestry or panelling, so the government saw a new opportunity to raise revenue.

    This led to people finding creative ways to avoid the tax, such as – using plain paper and then having painted after applying. The tax was abolished in 1836.

    Clock tax

    No doubt similar to the hat tax, the clock was introduced to tax the wealthy. In 1797, the British Clock Tax was applied to all timepieces, such as watches and clocks.

    The annual tax rate was two shillings and sixpence for a standard watch, and up to ten shillings for a gold watch. Clocks costing more than twenty shillings were rated at five shillings.

    And there we have it! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of Tax. If you are interested in discovering more or starting a career in tax please visit our courses pages. 

  • 9 strangest taxes in history

    by Katy Thomason-Stewart | Apr 15, 2021

    Despite the reputation it has for some, Tax is a deeply fascinating area of accountancy and has a rich and unusual history. Here we list some of our favourite examples of strange taxation throughout history…

    Urine tax

    This tax was introduced in Ancient Rome. Back then, human urine was viewed as a valuable commodity. It had many uses: tanning, laundering, and even teeth brushing.

    It started after entrepreneur types were discovered to be collecting the liquid waste. Both Emperors - Nero and Vespasian - noticed this and levied a tax on it’s purchase. It’s widely believed that this led to the popular Latin phrase Pecunia non olet, i.e. ‘money does not stink’.

    Being a coward tax

    From around 1100, English medieval knights could opt out of fighting a war by paying for the privilege. It’s official name was ‘Scutage’ but was commonly known as ‘cowardice tax’. It would enable one to be let out of military service to the King.

    After its inception the Scutage system evolved into a general tax on knights’ land - by the 13th century. By the 14th century, however, this tax became redundant and faded away.

    Beard tax

    In 1698 Emperor Peter I of Russia created the beard tax. It was thought to be a move that would help westernise the appearance of Russian society, as he deemed it an old-fashioned fashion choice.

    Those who wanted to keep their facial hair had to pay their way and were given a token to carry as proof of payment. Henry VIII had also brought out a similar tax for Tudor England. Given the costs associated, beards quickly became a symbol of stature and wealth.

    Window tax

    This tax was first introduced in England in 1696. It was intended to be quite a liberal tax as those with smaller houses would pay less or be exempt.

    This certainly proved to be the case when applied to the rural poor, but didn’t really help the urban poor. In more densely populated areas it was rare for the working classes to live in individual homes. They would often live in large tenement buildings, amongst many others, and under the terms of the tax this was considered to be one house so they’d be subjected to heavy window tax assessments.

    This incredibly unpopular tax led to the removal of windows and much natural light, to prevent paying the extra money. The negative effects of the lack of natural light and ventilation led to a growing movement which successfully stopped the tax in 1851.

    Knowledge tax

    In 1815 Britain started to tax newspaper purchases. This was initially designed to tax the wealthy. However, this did not work out that way.

    The tax quickly proved to be counterproductive, as it put a huge pressure on the press by reducing the circulation and made it less accessible. Plus it was a form of censorship for those too poor to afford it. The tax was abolished in 1855.

    Hat tax

    A hat tax was introduced in 1784 and was aimed at raising revenue for the government in a way that would mostly correspond to a person’s wealth.

    At this point in history it was the rich who could afford numerous hats, whereas the poor might have one cheap hat, or none at all.

    Heavy fines were doled out to those who failed to pay. This led to some hat-makers rename their creations. However, in response, a tax on any ‘headgear’ was introduced by 1804. The tax was repealed in 1811.

    Playing cards tax

    Yes, believe it or not people were taxed for playing cards!

    This was in force from as early as the 16th century. Furthermore, in 1710, the English government increased the tax on playing cards and dice. Inevitably, this led to mass forgeries of playing cards. The tax was not removed until 1960.

    Wallpaper tax

    Brought out in 1712, Britain taxed anyone who bought patterned, painted or printed wallpaper. This tax was introduced into Britain due to the fact that wallpaper provided a cheap alternative to tapestry or panelling, so the government saw a new opportunity to raise revenue.

    This led to people finding creative ways to avoid the tax, such as – using plain paper and then having painted after applying. The tax was abolished in 1836.

    Clock tax

    No doubt similar to the hat tax, the clock was introduced to tax the wealthy. In 1797, the British Clock Tax was applied to all timepieces, such as watches and clocks.

    The annual tax rate was two shillings and sixpence for a standard watch, and up to ten shillings for a gold watch. Clocks costing more than twenty shillings were rated at five shillings.

    And there we have it! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the history of Tax. If you are interested in discovering more or starting a career in tax please visit our courses pages. 

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