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Taxing horses, dogs, guinea-pigs and seals

24 January 2007 / John Jeffrey-cook
Issue: 4092 / Categories: Comment & Analysis
JOHN JEFFREY-COOK outlines the story behind a Victorian tax demand.

WHEN THE 18-year-old Victoria succeeded her uncle William IV in 1837 there was no income tax but most gentlemen received a notice of assessment. Its origins lay over 50 years earlier.
When George III appointed William Pitt aged only 24 first minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer in late 1783 his most urgent task was to reorganise the chaotic national finances. The Commissioners for the Affairs of Taxes (Tax Office) managed the window tax (dating from 1696) and Lord North's 1778 inhabited house duty (at 5% of annual value). The Commissioners of Excise managed the 1747 tax on carriages and the small tax on waggons wains (as in Constable's Haywain) and carts and the 1777 tax on male servants. Yet a third Board the Commissioners of Stamps had several 'unstamped duties of stamps' including the new 1784 taxes...

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