How the Beatles Dealt With a 98% Income Tax (That’s right 98%)

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When I was a small child we lived in the United Kingdom for a couple of years just before the Thatcher revolution. In the years afterward, after we were back in the states and I was a bit older I can remember my parents talking about how colossally messed up Britain was economically. The 1970s weren’t great for America, but for our friends across the pond they were far worse.

My parents would talk about “brown outs,” when the electrical workers would deliberately turn off the power from power plants in a show of what I guess some might call “workers solidarity.”

My mother told me of the time she almost died in a British hospital with an ectopic pregnancy.  The doctor had told her to go home as her pain was most likely indigestion. 24 hours later she was in a navy hospital again undergoing surgery. Post surgery she was put into a room with tens of other people who were sometimes given to screams of anguish. “Never go to a European hospital if it can be avoided,” I was told.

I learned early on that socialism was not the way to go.

But more than anything my parents talked about the incredible levels of taxation in the UK.

As my father was an officer in the US Navy and he did not feel the burden, but I can remember him talking for years about the audacity of a government that thought it had the right to take nearly 100% of people’s pay.

My dad explained that one of the reasons all the cool British bands of the 60s left the UK and came to the United States was because of the rate of taxation in the Isles. A pretty amazing thing given that rates weren’t exactly low in the USA in the 60s either. At least Uncle Sam didn’t take everything.

This level of taxation was inspiration for one of my favorite Beatles tunes (and I like nearly all of them) Taxman.

Attached is an article from Bloomberg on how the Fab 4 dealt with confiscatory rates of taxation. Plus some other cool stuff.


The top rate for British taxpayers in the mid-1960s reached 83 percent. The wealthiest among them paid a 15 percent super-tax on top of that, pushing taxes as high as 98 percent. The pain came out in the band’s music. George Harrison opened his 1966 song “Taxman”:

Let me tell you how it will be. 
That’s one for you, 19 for me…
Should 5 percent appear too small, 
Be thankful I don’t take it all.

As Lennon and McCartney racked up hits with their compositions in 1963 and 1964 — “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” to name a few — and money started pouring in, it became clear that the songwriting profits would be siphoned away to the U.K.’s treasury if something wasn’t done.

Click here for the article.