The bluffer's briefing: Tax

Best tax-planning: the Roman poet Virgil (70-19 BC) spent hugely on the funeral of his pet fly, declared the area a cemetery and avoided land tax.

Cost to US Treasury of business deductions for meals and entertainment in 1989: dollars 8.2bn.

Total time Americans spend on 'hold' each year when phoning the US Inland Revenue Service: 35 years.

Taxes collected by Mussolini: goat tax, bachelor tax.

Most successful British tax: window tax, from 1696 to 1851.

First income tax: The Catastro in Florence, imposed by Lorenzo de' Medici in the 15th century.

First levy of income tax in Britain: 1799, repealed 1802, reimposed 1803.

First peacetime income tax in Britain: 1842.

Highest rate in 1842: 7d in the pound.

Highest rate imposed on an individual: Hilmar Reksten, of Norway, shipping magnate: his combined taxes added up to 491 per cent of taxable income.

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