poll tax

(redirected from Capitation tax)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial.
Related to Capitation tax: Medicare Tax

poll tax

poll tax, a capital tax levied equally on every adult in the community. Although no longer a significant source of revenue for any major country, the poll tax did provide large sums for many governments until well into the 1800s. The tax has long been attacked as being an unfair burden upon those less able to pay. In the United States, the poll tax has been connected with voting rights. Poll taxes enacted in Southern states between 1889 and 1910 had the effect of disenfranchising many blacks as well as poor whites, because payment of the tax was a prerequisite for voting. By the 1940s some of these taxes had been abolished, and in 1964 the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution disallowed the poll tax as a prerequisite for voting in federal elections. In 1966 this prohibition was extended to all elections by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that such a tax violated the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. In 1990, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain introduced a poll tax with exemptions for people with low incomes or disabilities. The measure was extremely unpopular and played a role in her replacement as prime minister later that year.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Poll Tax


(in Russian, podushnaia podat’), the major direct tax in 18th- and 19th-century Russia. It was introduced by Peter I in 1724 to replace the household tax (podvornoe oblozhenie) and was levied on the entire male population of the taxpaying strata, that is, all categories of peasants, guild merchants, and posadskie liudi (other merchants and artisans). Before the poll tax was introduced, a census of the population was made. The total amount of the poll tax was determined by the sum needed to maintain the army. Initially, the tax was assessed at 80 kopeks per person per year. As data on the number of taxpayers became more precise, the poll tax on peasants was first lowered to 74 and then to 70 kopeks. Until 1782, schismatics were forced to pay twice the usual rate. The state’s growing financial needs, coupled with inflation of the ruble, led to an increase in the poll tax from 70 kopeks to 1 ruble per male peasant in 1794.

In 1867 the assessment on peasants varied between 1 ruble 15 kopeks and 2 rubles 61 kopeks, depending on the region. The poll tax on merchants was replaced in 1775 by a proportional tax on declared capital. The poll tax on meshchane (members of the urban lower middle classes) and members of artisan associations was abolished in 1863, except in Bessarabia and Siberia. In the 18th century the poll tax accounted for approximately 50 percent of the total revenues in the state budget. This share decreased in the 19th century in connection with the development of indirect taxation. Large-scale arrears and cases of mass refusals to pay led to the abolition of the poll tax in European Russia in 1887 and in Siberia in 1899.


Rukovskii, I. P. “Istoriko-statisticheskie svedeniia o podushnykh podatiakh.” In the collection Tr. Komissii dlia peresmotra sistemy podatei i sborov, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1866.
Troitskii, S. M. Finansovaia politika russkogo absoliutizma v XVIII v. Moscow, 1966


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

poll tax

1. a tax levied per head of adult population
2. an informal name for (the former) community charge
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
(31) Sum total of men aged over 18 years who paid capitation tax and those men who owned rice fields but who did not pay the capitation tax.
15-19 95 94 99 97 20-24 70 48 69 52 25-29 101 55 54 48 30-34 60 25 42 38 35-39 69 20 29 25 40-44 57 12 21 20 45-49 52 15 29 19 50-54 35 6 17 17 55-59 32 8 25 18 60-64 8 3 37 19 65-69 17 5 29 13 70-74 4 1 25 19 75+ 2 1 50 33 Total 602 293 49 38 Table 4: Marriage and landownership (rice fields and farm land) of men listed in the capitation tax registers (corrected data) Age range Thnot Chum Kompong (years) no.
In any event, the term used in the Amendment proper is "taxes on incomes," which doesn't come close to supporting the idea that the pre-Pollock understanding was to be resuscitated or, more broadly, that all direct taxes (except maybe capitation taxes) were to be exempted from apportionment.
586, 602 (1881) ("[D]irect taxes, within the meaning of the Constitution, are only capitation taxes, as expressed in that instrument, and taxes on real estate ..."); Scholey v.