A bachelor tax is a punitive tax imposed on unmarried men. Such measures historically would be instituted as part of a moral panic due to the important status given to marriage at various times and places. As far back as Ancient Rome and more recently in the legislatures of New Jersey and Michigan, the supposed libertine or delinquent status of bachelor men was debated and taxes proposed as a solution. Still other locations would find reason to instantiate a bachelor tax for racial reasons (such as in South Africa), nationalistic reasons, to help cover welfare programs, or more simply as a pure revenue measure. More recently, bachelor taxes have been viewed as part of a general tax on childlessness, which were used frequently by member states of the Warsaw Pact.
The Lex Papia Poppaea was introduced in 9 AD by emperor Augustus to encourage marriage. In particular, penalties were imposed on those who were celibate, with an exception granted to Vestal Virgins. (Ulp. Frag. xvii.1). The law also imposed penalties on married persons who had no children (qui liberos non habent, Gaius, ii.111) from the age of twenty-five to sixty in a man, and from the age of twenty to fifty in a woman. (Tacit. Ann. xv.19).
Resm-i mücerred was a bachelor tax instituted in the Ottoman Empire by at least the 15th century in conjunction with the resm-i çift and the resm-i bennâk. Those who fell under the tax were more likely to migrate to other areas. Migrant mücerred were more likely to make their way to a growing town.
In 1695, the English parliament passed The Marriage Duty Act or Registration Tax, which imposed a tax on births, marriages, burials, childless widowers, and bachelors over the age of 25. It was primarily used as a revenue raising mechanism for war on France and as a means of ensuring that proper records were kept by Anglican church officials. The tax was found ineffective and abolished by 1706.
The state of Michigan had made repeated attempts to instantiate a bachelor tax. In 1837, state senator Edward D. Ellis attempted to pass such a bill, but the measure failed. In 1848, a petition made it to a House committee, but did not reach the floor. In 1849, another proposal was made in a House committee that did not reach the floor. Again in 1850, another petition reached the House, but did not find a sponsor. During the Civil War it was proposed again, this time as a revenue measure as opposed to a public welfare measure, but again failed to reach the floor. It was then repeatedly brought up in 1897, 1901, 1911, 1919, with the first resulting in counter proposals for a similar tax to be applied to women who reject marriage proposals and the final resulting in arguments that bachelors had a statistically higher rate of delinquency as opposed to other groups. The final proposed bill that also made the floor of the Michigan Congress was in 1935 before it too failed due to economic considerations of the time.
In 1921, the state of Montana applied a $3 tax on all bachelors in the state. One of them, William Atzinger, refused to pay on sex discrimination grounds. On January 11, 1922, the state supreme court struck down the “bachelor tax” and another poll tax applicable only to men. However, it was done so on the grounds that the Montanan constitution of 1889 did not grant the legislature the power to tax individual persons; and attempts to define it as a policing measure for matters of public health as opposed to a revenue measure were found invalid (and the decision did not reference Atzinger's arguments against the tax on grounds of sex discrimination).
In the state of California in 1934, as a response to the low 1933 birth rate in California, minister of Finance Roland Vandegrift proposed a $5 to $25 bachelor tax, but the measure did not succeed.
In 1919, South Africa imposed a bachelor tax for racial reasons in order to match the white population growth with the black one.
In 1923, the town of Repelen, Germany passed a bachelor tax of 2000 marks per month. However, this law was quickly overturned by federal authorities.
A bachelor tax was levied in Italy from 1927 until the fall of Mussolini in 1943.
- Let us be quite clear: what are 40 million Italians compared to 90 million Germans and 200 million Slavs? What are 40 million Italians compared to 40 million Frenchmen, plus 90 million inhabitants of their colonies, or 46 million Englishmen plus 450 million people who live in their colonies?
By 1936, Italian bachelors paid nearly double their normal income tax rate.
In 1946 Poland introduced Bykowe, which was a tax on childlessness that included a tax on those unmarried above 21 years from January 1, 1946 to November 29, 1956. It was later extended to those over 25 years of age until January 1, 1973 when it was repealed. It formed a part of Communist natalist policies and other taxes on childlessness that were instituted in the Soviet Union and Romania at around the same time.
A childlessness tax was enforced in the USSR from 1941 to 1990; it was applied to childless men from 25 to 50 years of age and to childless married women from 20 to 45 years of age. The tax was income based, taking 6% of the childless person's wages. Between 1991 and 1992, the tax was only applied to men, before being revoked due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
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