Income tax, fuel tax and inheritance tax all existed 100 years ago

10 February 2022
What was claimed

UK residents now have to pay dozens of different taxes, none of which existed 100 years ago.

Our verdict

This isn’t true. Income tax, which is listed in the post, was first introduced in 1799. And there are a number of other taxes mentioned that aren’t in place in the UK.

A post on Facebook, shared almost a thousand times, lists dozens of taxes alongside the logo for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), claiming that “not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago”. 

This is not true. Income tax, which is included in the list, was first introduced in 1799 by then-Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, as a means to balance the nation’s finances during a war against Napoleon’s forces. 

It was intended to be a temporary tax and was indeed repealed in 1802 after a peace treaty was signed. However, the following year it was revived after war broke out once again with France, and lasted until 1816. 

After a period of 26 years it was revived in 1842 by then-Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, and has remained in place in various forms ever since. 

As the Finance Act of 1920 reveals, a number of taxes named in the post existed in some form a century ago, such as duty on cigars, “motor spirit” (fuel such as petrol), medicine and corporation tax

A “death tax”, known then as estate duty but better known now as inheritance tax, was also introduced in 1894.

The list in the social media post also includes some examples of apparent modern-day taxes which either don’t exist, or don’t exist in the UK, for example “Medicare Tax”, which appears to refer to the US Medicare programme, and Goods and Services Tax, which exists in Australia and India but not the UK. 

Other examples include “Fishing Licence Tax” (a rod fishing licence isn’t a tax but rather a permit you have to pay for) and a “Driving Permit Tax” (drivers have to tax their vehicle, but not their licence), as well as something referred to as a “Cooking Tax”. 

The post also refers to an impending carbon tax. The UK government ran a public consultation on implementing a Carbon Emissions Tax in late 2020, but at present no tax of this type has been formally announced. 

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