THERE we were, discussing the woes of the world around the bar, like you do, and bemoaning the fact that beer had gone up and that petrol might rise to as much as £1.40 a litre (that’s £6.35 a gallon).
This is on top of the rising cost of living and the basic expenses of driving a car.
It’s all very well the Government saying we should all be driving eco-friendly vehicles that do 90 miles to the gallon. Lots of folk can’t afford to trade in their old motor to Honest John in the hope of bringing down their exorbitant road tax and fuel costs.
“What? Me give you money for a gas guzzler like that? Sorry son.You might as well try to trade-in your mother-in-law.”
As Ian said: “It’s the ordinary man and woman that gets hit, as always. What does the Government tax most? Driving, smoking and drinking. If you’ve got a lot of money, these rises are not going to affect you, but if you are ordinary working people, you are going to feel it.
“I’m lucky. I don’t smoke and I don’t drive so they can only get me on one.”
“Somebody in an office in Whitehall will have you on a list,” I said. “This bloke here? He doesn’t pay enough. What can we tax him on?”
“Maybe they’ll get me by imposing a tax on telling jokes,” he said.
“Don’t say that too loud,” I said. “There have been stranger taxes.”
There have, too.
Emperor Nero put a tax on urine in Ancient Rome, Henry VIII taxed beards, there was a hearth tax of two shillings a year in the 17th century and a window tax in the 18th century.
The 19th century saw the British Government introduce a wig tax and a hat tax, while a tax specifically on playing cards lasted from the 16th century until the 1960s.
And if you think the age of strange taxes is in the past, think again. Politicians in Utah have slapped a 10% tax if “nude or partially nude individuals performs any service” in the state’s sex businesses. Oo-er, screens matron!
In Arkansas they charge 10% on top of sales tax for tattoos and in Maryland they charge $2.50 a month tax for flushing your lavatory.
And in 2003, New Zealand was looking at ways to comply with the Kyoto Protocol and tried to introduce an agricultural emissions research levy.
This would target the release of methane by farm animals which, in New Zealand, account for more than 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, the Government gave up on the idea after an outcry across that farming nation that told the legislators to wake up and smell the roses – instead of the flatulence.
So, I told Ian that he should keep his suggestion about a joke tax to himself before the Government heard about it and thought it a good idea and put Peter Kay out of business.
“You would end up starting to tell a joke but leaving off the punchline so it didn’t qualify,” he said.
“People would have to supply their own. My dog has got no nose. How does it smell? And supply your own last line.
“What would happen is that instead of telling jokes, people would swap them by mobile phone. They would be text free.”
Get it? Text free? Tax free?
Well, you’ve got to smile. Before they tax that, as well.