Why a tax isn't always a tax

WORDS-WORTH: Doing your tax return may be taxing but it's got to be done.

by John Morrish
Last Updated: 26 May 2015

Here in the UK we pay lots of 'taxes', but we don't always call them that. For the taxes we pay on imports, buying property and dying we use the word 'duty', but they are taxes all the same. Since the Middle Ages, a 'tax' has been a compulsory levy imposed by government on wealth or some transaction. It comes ultimately from the Latin verb taxare, meaning to make a valuation or to censure. Figurative meanings are sometimes heard in English too. Completing a tax return, for instance, can be tedious and wearisome: 'taxing', in other words.

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