According to Benjamin Franklin, only two things are certain in life: death and taxes. This is very true. In fact, Franklin probably underestimated how certain taxes are.
Obviously, governments will tax anything to raise money. By anything, we mean they will tax your dog, hat, beard, and windows if they have the chance. All these things and many more have been taxed throughout history.
Man’s best friend was not saved from man’s weirdest taxes. Between 1797 and 1798, Scotland introduced a fixed tax of five shillings on all nonworking dogs. The tax caused a controversy soon after it was introduced. People against the tax complained that dogs were being considered objects and not living creatures. Supporters argued that dogs ate food and used other amenities that would have been used by humans, so they should be considered luxuries.
The tax was proposed in 1796 by John Dent, the member of parliament representing Lancaster. Dent was heavily criticized and mocked by other members of parliament and the press for even thinking of taxing dogs. They even nicknamed him “Dog Dent.”
The tax was not meant to rid Scotland of dogs, though people may have killed the dogs they could not afford to pay tax on. There were lots of nonworking dogs running around Scotland at the time. They spent their time chasing people around and were generally considered a nuisance. The money raised from the tax was intended to be used for the poor.
The first beard tax was introduced by King Henry VIII of England in 1535. King Henry VIII had nothing against beards, and he didn’t really need the money. In fact, he kept a beard himself. He was only interested in turning beards into status symbols. The amount to be paid was dependent on the status of the bearded person. The higher the status, the larger the tax.
King Henry VIII later abandoned his beard tax, but Queen Elizabeth I reintroduced it when she became queen. She imposed a tax on any beard that was left to grow past two weeks. In 1698, Peter I of Russia introduced a tax on beards and mustaches in an attempt to stop men from keeping beards, just like other Europeans.
Everyone who paid the tax was issued a special silver or copper coin called a beard token. They were required to have the token with them at all times. Men who did not have the token or refused to pay the tax would have their beards shaven in public. The tax was repealed in 1772.