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Land Tax



The first assessments of 1692-3 were made under the terms of "An Act for granting to their Majesties an aid of four shillings in the pound for one year for carrying on a vigorous war against France" [4W. & M.c.1,1692/3]. The Act specified that real estate and personal property, that is - buildings & moveable goods as well as land, were to be taxed. It nominated for each borough and county in England and Wales the local commissioners who were to supervise the assessments & local collection. The tax was voted annually, usually in the spring, until 1798 when it was transformed into a permanent tax but was redeemable on payment of a lump sum. It was levied on a number of different bases: as a pound rate between 1693 & 1696, as a 4 shillings assessment supplemented by a poll tax in 1697 and from 1698-1798 on the system whereby each county or borough was given a fixed sum to collect. In 1949 redemption became compulsory on property changing hands and in 1963 all unredeemed land tax was abolished.

An Act of 1780 meant that records of the land tax had to be kept in each county, so that they could be used to check whether people were entitled to vote in general elections or not. The records list the owner and occupier of the property, and its taxation value. The records stopped being used for electoral purposes in 1832, when Electoral Registers were introduced.

- By the early 18th century most tax collected related to land, hence its popular title, the "Land Tax". However, where assessments are recorded as a single column of undifferentiated figures, it is worth remembering that an assessment of moveable property continued to be an element in the amount until 1833.

- Before the advent of printed returns in c.1815, the layout and content of assessments is highly idiosyncratic. Clerks occasionally failed to put a heading to, or reversed the usual order of, the columns of names and figures. It is not always clear whether landlord or tenant is named as the "inhabitant" and this information is sometimes out of date.

- For much of the period street and precinct names are not recorded in any systematic way.

- The order of entries depended on the route taken by the assessor which varied as he moved from main street to side street to alley and back to main street. This means that entries for a single street are often spread over 2 or 3 pages.

- Only heads of households, as either landlord or tenant, are listed in the assessments.

- There are no street or personal name indexes to assessments.

- In most cases no revaluation of the property was made after 1698. Thereafter both rentals and assessments become increasingly inaccurate as guides to the actual value of the property.

- After 1798 it was possible to avoid further yearly instalments of Land Tax by paying a lump sum. From 1798 therefore the returns tend to become less reliable as registers of local inhabitants as the assessors lost interest in the owners of "redeemed" land.

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