Saturday, 23 February 2013

How Taxing

In the news today, the very controversial under-occupation penalty, dubbed the ‘The bedroom tax’.  A government system, whereby thousands of council house tenants are being forced to downsize if they have a bedroom that isn’t used.  Thus to free up accommodation for larger families.  

Those not willing to move & downscale their house will lose benefits, the government are hoping the scheme will make better use of the reported one million vacant rooms & help to reduce the £23 billion bill.  Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has stated that this happens in the private rental sector so, “If it’s good enough for private renting, it’s good enough for public housing”.

There are exemptions to this if you are over 60 years of age or have a disabled person that has a non-residential carer looking after them, then you can remain in your home, however if you are married & looking after your spouse who requires their own room due to disability, you are not exempt, which has angered many people.

Back in 1696 the then King, William III introduced a similar & just as controversial tax.  On windows!   The window tax consisted of two parts: a flat-rate house tax of 2 shillings per house and a variable tax for the number of windows above ten windows in the house. Properties with between ten and twenty windows paid a total of four shillings and those above twenty windows paid eight shillings.

The number of windows that incurred tax was changed to seven in 1766 and eight in 1825. The flat-rate tax was changed to a variable rate, dependent on the property value, in 1778. People, who were exempt from paying church or poor rates, for reasons of poverty, were exempt from the window tax.

Basically the bigger the house, the more windows it was likely to have and the more tax the occupants would pay. Nevertheless, the tax was unpopular, because it was seen by some as a tax on "light and air" It is thought that the saying ‘Daylight Robbery’ originated as a result of the window tax. However the tax wasn’t abolished until 1850.

If you have ever seen large houses that have bricked up windows, this was as a direct result of the window tax, home owners with over a certain amount of windows, filled them in to avoid paying so much in taxes. A drastic move to evade payment, but it worked.  Will this result in thousands of bedroom doors being bricked up? 

The human resourcefulness in times of the wallet being attacked are legendary, how about if you are married but in separate rooms? Or maybe house your pet python in the spare room?  I look forward to hearing some of the excuses.

If this doesn’t work for the government they could always try some of the other taxes attempted throughout history.  The brick tax of 1784, the glass tax of 1746, the Hearth tax of the 7th century & my personal favourite, the wallpaper tax bought in my Queen Anne in 1712.  Any patterned or decorated paper was taxed by the yard.  This was got around by having plain wallpaper & decorating it yourself. 

We had some really bad 1970’s flowery wallpaper when I was a child that should have been banned let alone taxed!

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