Taxes have been around for thousands of years.  Every known society has taxed its people.  Read on for a few modern and historical tax facts.


  • The word tax comes from the Latin word taxo, which means “I estimate.”
  • In ancient Rome, Emperor Vespasian put a tax on urine, a hot commodity.  It was used as a source of ammonia to clean togas, and somehow was used in tanning.  
  • In 1705, Peter the Great put a tax on beards to encourage men to be clean-shaven.  He was trying to keep up with the Western European look.
  • King Henry I made it possible for knights to opt out of fighting if they paid a tax, called the “scutage.”
  • Oliver Cromwell put a tax on his opposing political party – the Royalists, taking 1/10 of their property.
  • In the 16th century, the English government significantly raised taxes on playing cards and dice.  Forgery dice and playing cards began to appear to avoid paying taxes on the real deal.
  • From 1660 to 1689, England created a tax for fireplaces.  People would hide their fireplaces with bricks to avoid paying taxes.  
  • From 1696 to 1851, England put a tax on windows.  You had to pay taxes for how many windows you had in your home.  Unfortunately this led to a lot of health problems, and the tax was eventually repealed.  
  • The popularity of powdered wigs declined partially to a 1795 tax that England put on the scented powders people used for their wigs.   
  • Have you heard of Lady Godiva?  She made her famous nude ride as a tax protest.
  • The Rosetta stone is actually a tax document.
  • Even the earliest known civilization, the Sumerians (ancient Mesopotamians), recorded their taxes on clay cones.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the US Civil War was more about taxation than it was about slavery.
  • WWII created the norm of taxes being withheld from paychecks.  Before, Americans would save their money to pay a lump sum at the end of the year.  However, the war made it essential for the government to have a more steady stream of money.


  • Fewer than 1% of tax returns are audited, however, once your income hits $10 million, that percentage jumps to 10%.
  • In New Mexico, people over 100 are tax-exempt.  They cannot be claimed as someone’s dependant though.
  • An estimated 90% of households who use housekeepers and babysitters cheat on their taxes.
  • 90% of taxes are filed electronically.
  • 57% of taxes are filed by a paid preparer.