Taxation Records

Hearth Tax

One method of taxation was the Hearth Tax. This was calculated depending on the number of stoves, hearths and/or fireplaces in every home. 

It was imposed by Parliament in 1662, when Charles II was on the throne, but William and Mary abolished it in 1689. 

Virtually all heads of households, including the number of hearths in the home, were recorded, but assessors had to enter the house to record the number of hearths in the property.

People had to pay two shillings per year on each fireplace, hearth and stove in their property, but paupers were exempt from paying the tax.

Householders were also deemed exempt if parish officers or the incumbent provided a certificate proving the owner would not be able to charge a rent of more than 20 shillings per year and that their goods and chattels were worth less than £10.  Charitable institutions were also exempt.

The tax was due on 25th March (Lady Day) and 29th September (Michaelmas), and was paid by the person occupying the property, or by the property's owner if the building was empty.  

If a person had two or more hearths, they had to pay the tax even if they would otherwise have been exempt.  Assessments were prepared by the the parish constable, or by a sheriff if in a town or city.

The key documents are the assessments and returns, which contain the names of the individual householders, the number of hearths chargeable, the amount payable, and the number of people exempt.  

The other documents of interest are the exemption certificates, which contain the names and assessments of exempt people in a given area, and those who did not have enough money to contribute to poor and church rates. 

Exemption certificates in the National Archives are available by place name (parish or hundred) for Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, London, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Warwickshire.

For more information, please read the in-depth Research Guide Hearth Tax 1662-1689, published by the National Archives.  

Hearth Tax Returns can be perused in the National Archives, and also in some County Record Offices.


Taxation - Death Duty

Where a deceased person’s estate exceeded a certain value, Death Duties were applicable, and are the equivalent of today's inheritance tax.  Death Duty registers are held at the National Archives. When assessing tax on estates after 1796, the authorities used information gathered from administrations and wills to glean some idea of the value of the deceased’s estate.

Death Duty Registers contained the deceased’s name, executors, administrators and beneficiaries along with their relationship to the deceased and the property they received.

Letters of Administration were used when a person died without leaving a will and did not record names of the beneficiaries so the death duty register can take on even more importance.

The registers and indexes are held in Series IR26 and IR27 at The National Archives. IR26 contains the actual registers and IR27 the index to those registers.  The information that can be found in the indexes and registers is as follows:

  • The court the will was proved in
  • The beneficiaries named in the will of the deceased
  • Executors names, addresses and occupations
  • How the estate was distributed among the beneficiaries
  • The value of the estate
  • The name, address and last occupation of the deceased
  • Probate date
  • Details of estates, legacies, trustees, legatees and annuities
  • The duty paid

Information included in the registers could include:

  • Spouse's date of death
  • Beneficiaries' marriage or death date
  • The births of posthumous children and grandchildren
  • Any change of address
  • Law suits
  • Cross references to other entries

You are also able to view Country Court Death Duty Registers 1796-1811 on-line, but the National Archives does make a charge to view any documents.


Land Tax

Another method of taxation was the Land Tax, which was levied in England and Wales from 1692 to 1963, and calculated on land value. Owners and occupiers of property are listed in these records. They mostly survive from the period 1780 to 1832, and are held at most Record Offices. The National Archives holds an almost complete list of Land Tax Records for 1798.