Records of tax collection in the cities of London and Westminster, the Inns of Court and the county of Middlesex

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

  • cash books relating to receipts from collectors, payments to Exchequer and poundage to collectors, commissioners’ clerks and receiver general: aid and contribution 1797-1803, inhabited house duties 1795-9, assessed duties 1798-1803
  • collection books relating to duty received from named collectors: aid and contribution 1798-1808, inhabited house duties 1795-99, assessed duties 1798-1805
  • certified tax schedules relating to the total duty collected 1797-1804
  • journal relating to Bank of England certificates received 1798-1802

Administrative / Biographical History

Glyn, Mills, Hallifax & Co were appointed bankers to the Hon Henry Hood, Receiver General for Taxes for the Cities of London and Westminster, the Inns of Court and County of Middlesex in around 1798. William Dobson, a clerk in the bank from 1789, was appointed Deputy Receiver General in the same year and monies were received on behalf of Henry Hood at the bank’s office at 12 Birchin Lane, City of London.

Tax was not levied primarily on income until the close of the eighteenth century in Britain, but prior to this taxes were assessed and collected upon land, inhabited houses, shops, servants, horses and carriages and the like. Treasury Commissioners were given the task of appointing ‘honest and responsible’ Receivers General for each town or county to remit revenue collected to the Exchequer, and the Board of Taxes was made responsible for superintending the Receivers General and for expediting the flow of cash into Treasury coffers. Receivers General often appointed executive Deputy Receivers to administer the receipt and remittance of monies. The actual tasks of assessing the taxes payable and collecting them were the province of local inhabitants appointed as assessors and collectors by Acting Divisional Commissioners (unpaid officers nominated by Parliament rather than Treasury officials). Each of these officials took in payment a poundage, or commission, on the amounts collected. Receivers and Deputy Receivers also benefited from temporary custody of public funds, and acted as local bankers for government.

The Aid and Contribution for the Prosecution of the War, the first effective income tax in Britain, was announced in 1798 and introduced in 1799 by William Pitt the Younger, Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a means of paying for the French Wars. These ‘certain duties upon income’ were applied, as a temporary tax, at a rate of ten per cent on total income from all sources over £60 with reductions on income up to £200. It was paid in six equal instalments from June 1799. Assessment and collection was altered in 1803 and again in 1806 and the tax was discontinued in 1816 when Parliament decided that all documents connected with it should be collected and pulped. It was reintroduced in 1842.

The same machinery and personnel for assessment and collection was used in respect of all these taxes, though in London and Middlesex there were separate Receivers General for the Land Tax and for the other assessed taxes, probably because of the size of the securities required. The system was slow, unwieldy and open to abuse, and gave way in the nineteenth century to uniform professional assessment of taxation based on income.

Conditions Governing Access

Historical researchers are welcome to use the archives at our Edinburgh store. Access is by appointment and researchers are required to complete an access form before they visit. Some records are subject to closure periods. For further information please email archives@rbs.co.uk or telephone 0131 334 1428.

Bibliography

  • J E D Binney, British public finance and administration, 1774-92 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958. pp.49-60, 67-73)