urine tax 1

Unusual taxes- Part 4

Urine Tax

urine tax 1

In 2015, what uses do you think we could possibly have for urine? Is this a thought that comes to your mind when flushing away the urine you just passed?

Well many years ago, ancient Romans found that urine had many uses, such as an agent for cleaning clothes, your teeth and tanning leather. Laundries used to leave out pots for the passing public to urinate in them (when community spirit was at its finest).

As urine contains chemicals such as ammonia (when it is left in open air) phosphorus and potassium, the Romans genuinely believed that it would keep their teeth looking sparkly white and prevent them from decaying. It was therefore used in mouthwash and in toothpaste (mixed with pummis).

The Romans were quite the urine connoisseurs. They judged the best urine came from Portugal and therefore the most expensive urine came from there.

As urine had a lot of uses for everyday things, the Roman Emperor Nero levied the Vectigal Urinae, which is Latin for Urine Tax in the 1st century. The tax was placed on the collection of urine, therefore the buyer was taxed.

The tax was removed, then under the (at the time) Roman Emperor Vespasian, it was re-introduced. Vespasian became the emperor at a tough time and had not got even a single coin in its treasury. This was as a result of a civil war. Vespasian became renowned for his ruthlessness when it came to taxes and his love of money.

Although he did bring the Roman Empire out of its debt, it was not seen as a popular tax (along with other taxes he introduced) and his own son, Titus went on record to state that urine tax was a disgusting policy. This resulted in a legendary quote by Vespasian, as he held a gold coin in front of his son and said “Pecunia non olet” which translates to “Money does not stink”. This essentially means that no matter how bad the moral behind it, the money gained was far more important.

Was it not punishment enough for the people to collect and buy urine? Not pleasant. Then to slap a tax on them for it too? I bet Nero and Vespasian benefited from the rich chemicals urine provided tax free?

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