What Is the Purpose of Poll Taxes?

By Mike Broemmel
the purpose, poll taxes
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Andrew Magill

A poll tax is a type of head tax. Assessed on individual adults, a poll tax is based on the census as opposed to the income level or assets of taxpayers. Commonly used in ancient times, poll taxes were eliminated in most countries during the 19th and 20th centuries.


Poll taxes commonly were imposed in ancient times and into the 20th century. Traditionally a poll tax was a head tax. The poll tax became associated with voting in the United States in the 19th century.


A poll tax (as a head tax) is an efficient way of collecting revenue. Typically, any adult is required to pay the same amount in the poll tax.


A poll tax is a regressive tax. Because a poll tax is assessed in a uniform manner, all individuals, regardless of their financial status, pay the same amount.


The underlying purpose of the poll tax in the United States was to preclude certain individuals from voting (African-Americans and Native Americans, for example).


The most common misconception about poll taxes is that they are long gone. In fact, under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, a poll tax was implemented. The poll tax was in place for about two years.

About the Author

Mike Broemmel began writing in 1982. He is an author/lecturer with two novels on the market internationally, "The Shadow Cast" and "The Miller Moth." Broemmel served on the staff of the White House Office of Media Relations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and political science from Benedictine College and a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University. He also attended Brunel University, London.