John Menadue. Early tax avoidance: the window tax

window_taxHolidaying in Bath, I came across an early example of tax avoidance. A window tax was introduced in the UK in 1696. It was believed to be a progressive tax on the assumption that the wealthy property owners had larger houses and more windows. But the tax avoiders found a way around the problem…fill in the window spaces with masonry and avoid the tax even if it looked very ugly. Wealthy property owners don’t often have good taste or care about neighbours. The tax was abolished in 1851.
Tax avoidance is now largely conducted in secret and the scale of it by such companies as News Corp, Westfield Glencore, Google, Apple and the Big Pharma multinationals puts the tax avoiders in Bath in the shade.


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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