About 400 years since the last one went away, barber Anthony Kent has proposed a tax on beards in the UK.
Kent is the owner of a chain of salons called UK Barber Shops. Bothered by what he calls the “ridiculous nature of taxation in the hairdressing industry,” Kent got the idea for a beard tax after learning that King Henry VIII levied a similar tax in 1535 (to be fair, he also accused women of witchcraft when he was ready to marry someone else, so maybe his ideas aren’t all perfect for modern society).
He has proposed the tax to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (that’s like head of the IRS). There’s no word just yet on whether Osborne supports the proposal or not.
The proposed tax would tax men with beards £100 per year, and £50 for stubble beards. Kent says the tax could go a long way to fixing the British government’s budget deficit, though some might be right to question his motivation, as Kent confesses he is unable to grow a beard himself (though he can crop a thin goatee). Many beardsmen know this phenomenon as “beard envy.”
The proposal could be a form of satire. Consider this quote from Kent himself:
“I am trying to highlight these ridiculous taxes we are expected to pay and the beard tax is an exaggeration of this. I have been writing to the government for many, many years on the tax affairs of hairdressing and all of my calls fall on deaf ears. So, I decided to come up with an alternative tax raising measure for the government so they can make things fair.”
Keith Flett, organizer of the Beard Liberation Front (BLF) says that the tax is unworkable, due to fundamental flaws. Flett says:
“Mr Kent is a businessman and he is right to spot the idea that with the growth of beards in Britain there is money to be made, some of which at least can be used for the benefit of wider society. However, he needs to think more positively about how the power of beards can be harnessed to do this. A beard tax would not work.”
Flett goes on to explain that this tax would require a Beard Inspectorate to enforce payment. Such a body could cost more than the tax would even collect, leaving the tax more of a voluntary one. Voluntary taxes, by and large, do not get paid.
Historical beard taxes have been difficult to enforce. The first known beard tax was instituted by King Henry VIII in 1535, and re-instituted by his daughter Elizabeth I. More recently, Emperor Peter I of Russia levied a beard tax in 1698 in an attempt to bring a more modern style to Russia (at the time, Europe was largely clean-shaven). Peter I’s tax required those who paid it to carry a token which said “Money taken” on one side, and “the beard is a superfluous burden” on the other.
In 2016, the tax is unlikely to pass. But British beardsmen should keep an eye on this one, and be ever-prepared for the Beard Revolution should the time come. Let us pray that dark day does not arrive.