Saturday, 22 March 2008

Window Tax


We often hear about window tax and the effect it had on architectural styles and on changes to buildings as people bricked in windows to save money. But what exactly was window tax?

The tax was introduced in 1696 under King William III and was designed to impose tax relative to the prosperity of the taxpayer, but without the controversy that then surrounded the idea of income tax. At that time, many people in Britain opposed income tax, on principle, because they believed that the disclosure of personal income represented an unacceptable government intrusion into private matters, and a potential threat to personal liberty.

When the window tax was introduced, it consisted of two parts: a flat-rate house tax of 2 shillings per house and a variable tax for the number of windows above ten windows. Properties with between ten and twenty windows paid a total of four shillings, and those above twenty windows paid eight shillings. The number of windows that incurred tax was changed to seven in 1766 and eight in 1825.

Throughout the era of the window tax houses were known to brick up windows to either avoid the tax or keep within a lower tax bracket.

The flat-rate tax was changed to a variable rate, dependent on the property value, in 1778. People who were ineligible for church or poor rates, for reasons of poverty, were exempt from the window tax. Window tax was relatively easy to assess and did not involve prying into personal wealth. The bigger the house, the more windows it was likely to have, and the more tax the occupants would pay.
Window tax was repealed in 1851 at which time it was an annual charge of –
8 windows - £0 16s 6d
9 windows - £1 1s 0d
10 windows - £1 8s 0d
11 windows - £1 16s 3d
12 windows - £2 4s 9d
and so on up to
25 windows - £7 14s 3d
30 windows - £9 16s 3d
35 windows - £11 18s 3d

Dairies were exempt if not used to sleep in and provided they had the name “Dairy” above the door. I recall seeing dairies with the name ‘Dairy’ above the door but when I came to search for an example on the Web to illustrate this article I couldn’t find one. Have they all disappeared?

Also exempt were tenants occupying farm-houses at a rack-rent of less than £200 a year; or owner occupied farm-houses with a yearly value under £100 if the owner had no other income exceeding £100. Glass doors and glass lights over doors were subject to window tax and windows lighting two rooms, in two frames, paid as two windows.

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