Collect urine tax, beard tax and hundreds of weird things

Through historical records and research, today we have a vivid, interesting and attractive picture of tax – which effectively reflects the reality of a society.

Taxes have been a constant in all human societies since the first civilization appeared in Mesopotamia. However, taxes have also varied over the centuries. Taxes apply to almost everything and can be paid with almost anything. Recently, National Geographic took a look at some odd tax forms.

The ancient Romans highly valued urine because of its ammonia content. For them, urine is a multi-purpose cleaner that can be used for many purposes such as washing clothes or cleaning teeth. And like many other valuable products, urine was also listed as taxable, even though many wealthy Romans despised this impurity.

Collect urine tax, beard tax and hundreds of weird things
Public toilets in the Colosseum. (Photo: Jose Louiz Bernardes Ribeiro).

The following anecdote was narrated by the historian Suetonius circa 120 through his famous book Twelve Roman Emperors. Emperor Vespasian (reigned 69–79) made a fortune by taxing the trade in urine collected from public toilets. When his son Titus reprimanded his father for imposing a tax on urine, he took a coin from the first batch of urine tax, put it in his son’s nose and asked, “Does it smell like a declaration? “. As soon as Titus said “No “, the emperor replied: “Get it from urine”.

This odd-sounding regulation was enacted by King Henry VIII of England in 1535. The fee would increase in relation to the social status of the bearded man. Therefore, a noble with a beard would definitely be taxed more than a commoner man. King Henry VIII was, of course, exempt from the fine even though he also wore a long beard.

Tsar Peter the Great of Russia, whose “Westernization” reforms helped bring Russia into the ranks of Europe’s superpowers, also enacted a tax on beards in 1698. Peter tended to be pro-friendly. The West believes that the popularity of the Russian-style beard represents the stagnant, conservative nature of the country. Beard owners are required to pay a substantial fee and are required to bring a special badge to prove that they have purchased the right to maintain the beard.

In his work entitled The Economic and Social Role of Janassary in the Ottoman City of the 17th Century: The Case of Istanbul (2011), the historian Gulay Yilmaz has provided us with information about a particular tax of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish. The rulers of the Ottoman Empire forced non-Muslim subjects within the empire to pay a tax on what they considered dearest – children. It was the famous “blood tax” that caused terror in Balkan families under Muslim rule.

From the early 15th to the late 17th century, local Ottoman officials periodically separated Christian teenagers from their families, sending them to live under Ottoman rule, forcing them to convert. converted to Islam and handed it over to the Sultan’s court. Young men have to undergo military training lasting 5-8 years and work for the state in workshops, farms, ships, construction sites (Devshirme system).

“Of course, they also became the basis of the empire’s elite Janassary army. And the elites in the empire’s bureaucracy also largely came from those young men, who were gathered and enhanced with a special education in the palaces before become a state administrative officer”.

Collect urine tax, beard tax and hundreds of weird things
Christian youth (red shirt) serving in the Ottoman Empire.

At least the young men were exempt from taxes for their service to the empire. Those chosen to be Devshirme do not have to pay a so-called cizye – a personal tax levied on every adult Christian man.

Taxes have been around for a very long time. They predate the first coins.

In ancient Mesopotamia, there were some bizarre ways of paying taxes. For example, the tax on burying a body in a grave was paid in “seven barrels of beer, 420 loaves of bread, two bushels of wheat, a woolen cloak, a goat, and a bed presumably reserved for the dead,” according to the history. Ancient Middle East expert Tonia Sharlach in Ur III’s State and Local Taxation, 2004.

Around 2000 – 1800 BC, there is a record of a guy who paid 18,880 brooms and six logs. “It has to be some kind of farmer-government compromise, the way in which farmers provide essential goods to the government,” added Sharlach.

The creation of some form of in-kind payment also helps many tax cheaters. According to Sharlach: “ In another case, a man claimed he owned no property except a rice mill. And he forced the tax collector to carry the mortar as a form of tax payment.”

Among the most bizarre taxes is a tax called mulakkaram“tax on women’s breasts” . It was promulgated by the rulers of Kerala, southern India in the early 19th century. Women had to pay taxes if they wanted to cover their sensitive parts in public. And that face-to-face tax is a financial burden on low-caste (Avarna) women where it’s implemented.

That absurd tax caused the legendary act of protest. Although the authenticity of the truth is often difficult to verify, there is a story that has spread in the town of Cherthala where a woman named Nangeli lived. Unable to pay taxes nor being forced to pay taxes, Nangeli cut off her breasts to pay the tax collector to his astonishment. She had to pay with her own life, however the terrible decree was repealed from the beginning of this act.

The full story was not recorded in the official annals of Kerala until researcher Subhrashis Adhikari’s book A Survivors’ Journey: A 70,000-Year History of the Indian Subcontinent was published in 2016 reiterates it.

In the Mauryan Empire of India (about 321-185 BC) an annual idea contest was held, the winner would receive a tax exemption . The government solicits the help of the people in terms of ideas to solve their own problems. If your solution is accepted and implemented, you will not have to pay taxes for the rest of your life.

The writer, traveler, ambassador of the Seleucid dynasty (Greek-Persian institution after Alexander the Great) Megasthenes (c. 350-290 BC) recorded this amazing story in the book Indica (India). degrees) by yourself.

Like most tax reform efforts, this system is far from perfect. According to historian Sharlach: The problem is that no one is motivated enough to tackle more than one problem.

Today, the history of the tax and its forms continues to be a subject of interest to many historians around the world due to its informative usefulness to research.