Article 61 of the Magna Carta doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay council tax

11 May 2022
What was claimed

Council tax is unlawful. The Crown has no lawful authority to make demands whilst Article 61 Magna Carta 1215 is in effect. Council tax is unlawful.

Our verdict

Article 61 of Magna Carta is not in effect. Council tax is not unlawful, and was brought into effect by a 1992 Act of Parliament.

A post on Facebook says: “What's everyone's opinions on council tax? The Crown has NO lawful authority to make demands whilst Article 61 Magna Carta 1215 is in effect.”

This is accompanied by a link to a post on Patreon which features an image saying “Council tax is unlawful”.

Council tax is not unlawful, and no part of the Magna Carta means you don’t have to pay it. Article, or clause 61 of the Magna Carta (which granted 25 barons, not the population at large, powers to keep the provisions of the charter) was omitted from all subsequent versions of Magna Carta and was never incorporated into English law.

We’ve written on this subject before, back when people were claiming it meant they didn’t have to follow coronavirus regulations.

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Article 61 of the Magna Carta

Magna Carta (Latin for “great charter”) was the name given to a series of royal charters issued in the 13th century, following disputes between the King and a group of rebel barons. 

The first Magna Carta was originally drawn up in 1215, which the post mentions. However, this version was quickly annulled by the Pope on the grounds it interfered with the authority of the King, and a civil war broke out in England. 

Then it was reissued in various forms over the following years, culminating in a version issued in 1225. This version forms the basis of our common law today.

The contents of Magna Carta were placed on the statute book in 1297. In the hundreds of years since however, much of this has been repealed.

The original 1215 version of Magna Carta had 63 clauses. Only four of these are still relevant today, and clause 61 is not among them, as it was omitted from all subsequent versions of Magna Carta and was never incorporated into English law.

Clause 61 granted powers to “assail” the monarch and “seek redress” to 25 barons in order to keep the provisions of the Magna Carta. Even if this clause had been incorporated into English law, these powers were not granted to the population at large.

We’ve checked other false claims about the Magna Carta, including whether article 42 enshrined free movement and whether it could be used to seize Edinburgh Castle.

Do you have to pay council tax?

Council tax was enshrined in law enacted in 1993, replacing the poll tax which had been introduced in 1989.

The Local Government Finance Act 1992 and other subsequent legislation means that those liable do have to pay, regardless of their consent to being charged.

Council tax exists in England, Scotland and Wales, while in Northern Ireland, a similar system of domestic rates applies.

Image courtesy of the British Library.

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