[FOUNTAIN]Death, taxes and electionsFrench windows are actually long glass doors. Their grace has become a synonym for romantic architecture, but they were actually the result of tax-dodging.
In 1789, the year the French Revolution began, taxes was imposed on windows and doors. The tax were based on the width of the window. Because heat in houses escapes through windows, only the rich could afford to heat their homes and still have wide windows. When the tax was introduced, people began reducing the width of their windows, making them taller, and so French windows were born. When developments in bacteriology led to a theory that narrow windows block natural light and could spread germs, the tax was abolished in 1926.
England was actually the first country to impose taxes on windows. William III, England’s Protestant king, needed a large fund to suppress the revolt of the Irish Catholics, so he created a window tax in 1696, based on the number of windows per house. The idea came from the fact that the bigger the house, the more windows it would have. It is the first time in modern Europe that the size of a real estate property was equated to its tax. In the West, “window tax” refers to an unnecessary tax item that the government creates to collect more money.
Looking back on history, populations have been extremely sensitive to taxes. In a sense, religious reform in Europe was essentially a revolution of the taxpayers opposing indulgences, a sort of religious tax. The French bourgeoisie rose against the monarch and started the French Revolution when King Louise XVI, who was suffering from financial difficulties, called the Estates-General to collect more taxes. The Boston Tea Party, which triggered the American Revolution, was a protest against Great Britain’s heavy taxes on tea. The Donghak Rebellion in Korea was carried out by regular people who suffered from a severe tax system.
On May 31, the day the ruling party suffered an unprecedented defeat in local elections, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation announced a raise in the government-designated standard land prices, the basis for real-estate taxes, by 18.56 percent. The standard price had been raised by 18.94 percent last year as well. While the government claims that the purpose of the tax increase was to control real estate prices, many think it will not provide a solution since it will have little effect other than causing a sudden rise in apartment prices in certain areas.
One of the reasons why the voters turned their backs on the ruling party might be the tax increases. After all, the voters are the taxpayers.
by Chae In-taek
The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.