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 ?
I was in the midst of the Poll Tax riot, just beginning a three-year research project on public order policing in London.
The Poll Tax was the brainchild of Mrs Thatcher's Environment Ministers Kenneth Baker and William Waldegrave.
The poll tax was wildly unpopular in Scotland and spawned an era–defining wave of popular protest, including a huge non–payment campaign.
People with long memories will remember this was the thinking behind the poll tax.
The poll tax, or community charge, is often regarded as Thatcher's flagship policy.
Had the Conservative Party kept its nerve and refused to climb down, the poll tax might even have achieved its stated aim of making people realise just how much it costs to fund local authorities.
The poll tax, properly implemented, would have been fairer.
She said: "The public has a deep distrust of top-up fees and they could become as unpopular as the poll tax.
Support for the Poll Tax is proof that Letwin is another Tory - to borrow a phrase of Labour warhorse Dennis Skinner - educated beyond his intelligence.
It is manifestly mean, just like the poll tax before it which, of course, was never called the poll tax by Mrs Thatcher but the 'community charge' as if it was a some kind of levy on living in sunny streets festooned with hanging baskets.
She compared it to the poll tax, which saw a flat rate charge paid by every adult - saving rich people money at the expense of the poor.
April 23 1990 Amid the Poll Tax fury in the UK more than 1,250 people signed a petition calling on Kirklees Council to empower Marsh post office to collect poll tax payments.