Poll Taxes

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A poll tax is an annual sum of money that must be paid to a government each year for every person who lives in a household in that government's jurisdiction. For example, a city with a poll tax might require families to pay $100 per person, per year, in poll taxes. This highly regressive tax is almost never used in the United States. But, local governments began collecting them in the United Kingdom under legislation enacted at the insistence of Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The U.S. Constitution does not ban poll taxes, but it does ban conditioning the right to vote on payment of poll taxes, which was used a a method to prevent blacks from voting in the South prior to the passage of the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1964.

There are even people in the U.S. (well to the right of even George W. Bush on economic issues) who favor a poll tax, or at least a quasi-poll tax. For example Steven Landsburg writes for Slate that:

My own opinion is that the rich already pay too much—it seems patently unfair to ask anyone to pay over 30 times as much as his neighbors (unless he receives 30 times as much in government services, which strikes me as implausible). If you share my sense of fairness, you'll join me in condemning the president's tax policy.

Fortunately, not many people share Mr. Landsburg's sense of fairness.

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