I recently received the annual nudge to complete my tax return. Somehow that provided me with the perfect excuse to avoid completing my paperwork and to read instead about the tax levied on hair powder in 1795.
The Duty on Hair Powder Act required those bewigged people who wished to powder their wigs to apply for an annual certificate, which cost a guinea. This didn’t apply to all equally – it perhaps goes without saying that the royal family and their household were exempt, but so were poorer clergy and some of the military.
One of the results of this tax was the ruin of countless periwig makers. Another consequence, which I can’t rue overmuch, was the speed with which powdered wigs were rejected by the majority of the population in favour of the hairstyles that became so common during the Regency. In 1812, 46,684 people still paid the tax apparently, but by 1855 only 997 did, and almost all of these were servants. The tax was finally repealed in 1869.
While on the subject of taxes, I noticed that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have put up a list of some of the more improbable excuses proffered by those who didn’t complete their tax credits return on time. I’m not sure whether number 3 is my favourite for its sheer audacity, or number 5, because what list would be complete without it?
- I didn’t need the money because I’d met a rich bloke, but he dumped me
- My mum usually does this for me
- The form was locked in the boot of my car, and then my car caught fire
- My baby used the paperwork as a colouring book
- My dog ate the form.