9 Jan: Introducing Income Tax

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, the American statesman Benjamin Franklin once said, but until 9 January, 1799, taxation looked very different to the way it does today, because this was the day the world was first introduced to income tax.

Its introduction by British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger was not one of his most popular innovations, but he had good reason to be wanting to bring more money into the government’s coffers, given the national debt had doubled during the American War of Independence and now stood at £243 million.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain why there was a bonfire outside Westminster the day income tax was eventually repealed; marvel that taxation used to target the wealthy rather than the poor; and reveal why taxing farts is more sensible than it sounds…

Further Reading:

• ‘9 January 1799: income tax introduced to Britain’ (Money Week, 2021): https://moneyweek.com/372129/9-january-1799-income-tax-introduced-to-britain

• ‘A short history of income tax’ (The Independent, 1995): https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/a-short-history-of-income-tax-1577708.html

• ‘William Hague on William Pitt’ (Cambridge University, 2010):

#1700s #UK #Politics #Economics