We expect that most of our readers will be aware that Income Tax was introduced by William Pitt in 1798 as a temporary expedient to meet the costs of the Napoleonic Wars, was repealed in 1802, was reinstated in 1803, was repealed again in 1816 and was reintroduced once again in 1842 and that It has been a permanent feature of our fiscal system ever since despite Gladstone’s promise, made in his Budget speech of 1853, to abolish the tax within seven years.
It may come as a surprise to our readers to learn, however, that 1798 was not the first time that a tax on income was enacted in England. King Henry VII, for example, introduced such a tax in 1489. It provoked an uprising in Yorkshire (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose) and Durham. When the Earl of Northumberland, whose task it was to enforce the tax, was attacked and killed in his house, King Henry responded to this robust cut and thrust of fiscal debate by abolishing the tax.