poll tax

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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 ThatcherThatcher, Margaret Hilda Roberts Thatcher, Baroness,
1925–2013, British political leader. Great Britain's first woman prime minister, nicknamed the "Iron Lady" for her uncompromising political stance, Thatcher served longer than any other British prime minister in the 20th
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 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.

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


poll tax

1. a tax levied per head of adult population
2. an informal name for (the former) community charge
References in periodicals archive ?
The unpopularity of the poll tax is seen as a key factor in the PM's downfall.
The end of the poll tax was not the end of the use of money to block the arteries of democracy.
In fact, the authors' main finding is that the reasons for choosing the poll tax were largely negative and even unthinking.
The poll tax will throw the burden of revenue raising onto this hard-pressed sector and shift the responsibility for basic services and provisions.
Unless he wants to be remembered like Thatcher is for inflicting the poll tax on Britain.
But Mr Dunlop was a key adviser to Margaret Thatcher when she set up the Poll Tax in Scotland before rolling it out across the UK.
In a move almost as cack–handed and ill–thought out as the poll tax itself, the Tories decided it should be slapped on householders in Scotland alone – a whole year before being rolled out across the rest of the UK.
But, while there was widespread organised resistance to the poll tax and active non-payment, some city residents who have recently been hit with backdated bills are adamant they know nothing about what they supposedly owe.
Former Tory Cabinet minister David Mellor last night revealed that, although Mrs Thatcher would"go down in history as a great leader", he fell out with her over the Poll Tax and that had spelled "the end of a beautiful friendship".
And just as with the poll tax, this will force councils to chase people for money they simply do not have.
A SENIOR politician last night likened new benefit rules to the poll tax.
It is even sadder that she can't grasp that the poll tax happened to be the fairest taxation system possible for it required every adult to pay his or her share of the cost of the services we all use.