window tax

Unusual Taxes- Part 3

Window Tax

window tax

Ever wondered where the phrase “daylight robbery” came from? Well I can tell you. It was when Window Tax was introduced in England in 1696.

As with many historic taxes, this was aimed at ensuring that the wealthier the person the more tax they would pay as they would live in a larger house with more windows.

The levels of tax paid on windows were:

  • no tax if the house had fewer than 10 windows;

  • 6 pence per window if the house had 10 to 14 windows;

  • 9 pence per window if the house had 15 to 19 windows;

  • 1 shilling per window if the house had 20 or more windows

As you can see from the above, it was genuinely seen as a ‘fair way’ of collecting tax relative to the wealth of the person/family. It was around a time where income tax would have been very unwelcome as it was viewed that disclosure of personal income represented an unacceptable governmental intrusion into private matters, and a potential threat to personal liberty, so the government had to find alternative ways of increasing revenue via taxes in a ‘fair way’.

The obvious way to avoid paying extra tax was to brick up the window spaces. As you will see with any properties built between 1696 and 1851 that have survived the test of time, a common feature is bricked up window spaces.

This tax avoidance scheme would have come at a great annoyance to the government, but it was at a detriment to people’s health from the lack of ventilation.

It is safe to say that it was a tax that was met with little enthusiasm, but it survived for 156 years, so lasted longer than many other ill-fated taxes.

So to those who have ever used the term “daylight robbery”, you now know where it came from. It may be an old phrase but the term has never been used as literally as it was between 1696 and 1851. Robbing people of daylight must be a breach of human rights surely? Not everything was better in the good old days.

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