King William III of England wanted to impose a tax relative to the prosperity of the taxpayer without the controversy that surrounded the idea of an income tax.
At that time, many people in Britain opposed an income tax because they believed that the disclosure of personal income represented an unacceptable governmental intrusion into private matters, and a potential threat to personal liberty.
In fact the first permanent British income tax was not introduced until 1842, and the issue has remained intensely controversial up through today.
The window tax was introduced in England and Wales under “An Act for granting to His Majesty ‘severall’ Rates or Duties upon Houses for making good the Deficiency of the clipped Money” today in 1695.
When the window tax was introduced in early 1696, it consisted of two parts: a flat-rate house tax of 2 shillings per house (£11.75 as of 2013), and a variable tax for the number of windows above ten windows in the house.
Properties with between ten and twenty windows paid a total of four shillings (£23.5 as of 2013), and those above twenty windows paid eight shillings(£47 as of 2013).
The number of windows that incurred tax was changed to seven in 1766 and eight in 1825.
The flat-rate tax was changed to a variable rate, dependent on the property value, in 1778.
People who were exempt from paying church or poor rates, for reasons of poverty, were exempt from the window tax.
This window tax was relatively unobtrusive and easy to assess.
Certain rooms, particularly dairies, cheese-rooms and milk-houses were exempt providing they were clearly labeled, and it was not uncommon to find the name of such rooms carved on the lintel.
The bigger the house, the more windows it was likely to have, and the more tax the occupants would pay.
Nevertheless, the tax was unpopular, because it was seen by some as a tax on “light and air”.
This window tax caused many householders to brick up windows to avoid the tax.
However, the tax was not repealed until 156 years later, when on July 24, 1851 the tax was replaced with a tax on inhabited houses.
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