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April 19th, 2011
The Five Craziest Taxes in History

#1.)  Urine.  Ancient Rome's sewage system was revolutionary, but a lot of the public toilets were more like porta-potties, and all the waste was collected in large containers underneath.
--Now, here's where it gets really gross:  An emperor in the first century named Vespasian realized that the urine could be used for a variety of different things:
--Roman tanners used it to soften leather, and people even used it in their LAUNDRY because the ammonia made their togas whiter.
--So the emperor had workers collect the urine, then he distributed it to people and charged them a tax for the delivery.

#2.)  Soap.  Regular baths were starting to get popular in England in the 17th century, but then everyone's favorite ultra-religious Puritan, Oliver Cromwell, overthrew the government, and HE thought that being too clean was ungodly.
--So to discourage it, he placed a large tax on soap.  And since future kings liked getting the money, the tax stayed in place for 200 years.

#3.)  Beards.  In 1700, beards were still popular in Russia, but they were out of style in the rest of Europe.  And Peter the Great wanted to make Russia more modern, so he basically made beards illegal.
--The only way you could have one was if you paid a large yearly tax for it.  And it was controversial because men in the Russian Orthodox church HAD to have long beards.

#4.)  Cowardice.  In the 12th century, land-owning knights in England had to fight if there was a war.
--But if they didn't want to risk their lives, and they had enough money, they could pay a tax called "scutage" (--pronounced SKOO-tej).  Then the king would use that money to hire OTHER soldiers.

#5.)  Wigs and Hats.  In the 18th century, the British government started taxing wigs and wig powder, which were only used by rich people.  But they were going out of style anyway, and people just stopped wearing them.
--So to make up for it, the government started taxing hats, which were popular with rich people AND poor people.
--When you bought a hat, you had to pay the tax, then they stamped the inside of it.  And if you were caught trying to FORGE the stamp, you got sentenced to death.  


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