Albert Einstein was right, not many of us can understand anything except the bottom line; how much we have to pay this year. But I would like to propose some new ‘decency taxes’ that everyone will understand.
A headline in the Telegraph had caught my eye, “Venice priest proposes ‘decency tax’ on brides with plunging necklines”. Not knowing what a ‘plunging neckline’ is, I looked at the report, expecting lots of picture to illustrate the problem. I was disappointed, a lot of rather dull text but no pictures. I almost moved on but always ready to learn something new, I read the report.
The priest in question says he has noticed wedding dress necklines plunging lower and lower in recent years. He is to be commended on his powers of observation; I would not have noticed. He suggests that brides who display too much flesh at the altar should be subjected to a sort of decency tax. He did not say how this tax would work; who would measure the degree of plunge or how the tax on flesh would be calculated. But the basic idea seems to be a tax on the way people dress.
The priest’s idea has much merit. We in Israel are always looking for new ways to improve tax revenues. And we have many people whose dress code needs monitoring. For example, a tax on Haredi men’s streimels could be a good source of extra income for the treasury. A shtreimel is a hat, usually made of fur from the tails of sable, stone marten, or grey fox. These hats are the costliest part of Hasidic clothing, costing anything up to $6,000. One possible origin of the shtreimel was a decree issued by a long-forgotten anti-Semitic leader somewhere in Eastern Europe. All male Jews were required to identify themselves as such by “wearing a tail” on their heads. The rabbis turned the idea, intended to ridicule the Jews, into a hat that imitated the crown worn by royalty.
The Israel Tax Authority (ITA) should impose a tax on shtreimels – according to their size. You want the biggest shtreimel in town? No problem, just pay the shtreimel tax.
The same principle could be applied to women’s high-heeled shoes. Most people wear shoes to protect their feet from the ground’s rough surface and to make walking easier and more comfortable. High heels, however, are a fashion essential, intended to make the wearer taller and display their legs to us totally disinterested passers-by.
You might be surprised, as I was, to learn that the Guinness World Record for the highest heeled shoes, commercially available, is held by the 20-inch platform boots created by the Indian designer James Syiemiong. The tax potential here is enormous. If women want to totter around, damaging floors and carpets, and risking a visit to their local hospital’s Emergency Room, they should expect to pay. The higher the heel, the higher the tax.
O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them. That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not harassed. (Sura 33, ayah 59, Koran)
As with many religions, this simple commandment in the Koran has been interpreted by many experts who claim to understand its real meaning. Although ‘hijab’ is just an Arabic word meaning “to cover”, the concept has been expanded into a plethora of clothing styles from just a headscarf to full body armour such as the burqa, chador, boushiya, or niqab.
Once again, the tax authorities should be rubbing their hands. Come on, ITA, it’s just a simple calculation – the less we see, the more tax you pay.
I was tempted to follow Walt Disney, who refused to allow male employees at Disneyland to have a beard, and suggest a tax on beards – by length, of course. But then I realised that this would constitute ‘double taxation’ for members of the Haredi community who are already in line for the shtreimel tax. And, more importantly, I myself have a beard.