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Beatles & the Taxman

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In 1966, George Harrison, who would have been 77 this year, wrote the famous song “Taxman” for the Beatles. Bernie Sanders must have hated this song.

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.
Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman.
Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.


George Harrison explained why he wrote that song: “I had discovered I was paying a huge amount of money to the taxman. You are so happy that you’ve finally started earning money – and then you find out about tax. In those days we paid 19 shillings and sixpence [96p] out of every pound, and with super-tax and surtax and tax-tax it was ridiculous – a heavy penalty to pay for making money. That was a big turn-off for Britain. Anybody who ever made any money moved to America or somewhere else.”

The US top tax rate in 1963 was 91%, dropping to 70% during 1964-81. The top rate for British taxpayers in the mid-1960s reached 83%. The wealthiest among them paid a 15% super tax on top of that, pushing taxes as high as 98%. The pain came out in the Beatles 1966 song “Taxman.”

Beatles 1

The Beatles did not have to pay taxes on income outside of Britain. That was the incentive to make the first American debut in New York on February 7, 1964, on the NBC Ed Sullivan Show.