ta 820x410 - Did you know that 17th century tax records are available today?

Did you know that 17th century tax records are available today?

We read about the history of hearth tax and its historical context in out of our earlier posts (www.hearthtax.org.uk/about/history.html). There we saw the reason why the policy was introduced, and its basic definition and structure. Additionally, we saw the long term trends that it resulted in.

In this post we focus specifically on the tax records and what they tell us today. The National archives contain in detail the various information that can be derived from these tax records, some of which are available in our database at hearth tax institute. The information available is related to the two key information categories of the hearth tax administration – assessment and returns, and exemption certificates.

The amazing aspect of this is that despite the passage of more than three millenniums since that passage of this policy, these details are still available. In fact, you can search in the National Archives E179 database the surname of your great-great-great-great grandfather who lived in that era, along with his county, to obtain his tax records.

With the information of surname and county, we obtain tax records that suggest the type of property and the wealth possessed by each individual. As aforementioned, it enables us also to trace our genealogy back by more than three millenniums. This is a unprecedented level of information available, something of a surprise considering the passage of time since then.

While it is not possible to expect every single record to be available today, records from the years 1662-1666 and 1669-1674 are available for the most of it. There are also records of a similar tax structure, called the window tax, implemented in 1696. As you can imagine, it was a tax on the number of windows.

The tax records show the type of income disparity and inequality that existed at the time. Since the tax was 2 shillings for higher-end property owners and 1 shilling for the rest. This is direct proof of inequality in terms of property ownership, from which an equivalent for overall inequality can be assumed.

In addition, with these records that you can search, it is possible also to learn about the history of houses. Architecture professionals and enthusiasts can derive the layout and type of a house based on the number and type of internal components such as parish, hearths, stoves, windows and so on.

In short, the tax record searches give us a wealth of information from the past. This information can be extremely beneficial when structuring policies as it illustrates details about disparities in individual wealth and property that are still applicable in modern Britain.

taxcxc 820x410 - The history and origination of the Hearth tax policy in England

The history and origination of the Hearth tax policy in England

Hearth tax, when it was introduced, was a revolutionary policy in terms of scope and implementation. Most of us British citizens aren’t aware of such a historic tax policy that shaped the modern policy process. With tax always a complicated matter, governments and officials always like to keep a track of historic successes and failures.

There were some precedents to the hearth tax policy. Prior to 1662, tax collection was done by the royal crown and wasn’t very uniform from what is known to us today. Uniformity and process scheduling were two aspects that the hearth tax system brought about. But what does it all really mean?

Basically, hearth tax means – a tax on every hearth and stove present in each home in Great Britain. The reason for the emergence of this policy was, as is similar with most cases, a shortfall in government revenue. A shortfall that was so severe that an overhaul of the property tax regime was considered.

taxx - The history and origination of the Hearth tax policy in England

The British parliament in 1662 was looking to raise an annual revenue of GBP 1.2 million through tax policies. As a result, it decided to tax every citizen a fixed amount; the very definition of tax today. Citizens whose property’s worth was less than 20 shillings would pay 1 shilling annually for each hearth they possessed, whereas citizens with more than 20 shillings worth of property would pay 2 shillings annually for each hearth they possessed.

Additionally, this was the first time private tax collectors were employed to handle the administrative complexity of the policy. Under the new tax regime, tax could be collected up to twice in a year, something that wasn’t the case before. Documents for tax purposes were structured, fixed and categorized into two categories – assessment and returns, and exemption certificates.

The hearth tax policy led to a radical shift in the assessment, calculation, administration and collection of tax. Modern Britain still imbibes traces of the forgotten policy in its tax policies.