What is Window Tax? Find out the fascinating facts here!

A Vision of the Repeal of the Window Tax. Credit: Wellcome Collection

Discovered a fascinating fact the other day that I didn't know... who's heard of ‘Window Tax' before?

I certainly hadn't until I came across it in a Houzz article and looked it up!

According to Wikipedia, a Window Tax was brought out in 1696 by William lll as a way to tax people relative to their income… the idea of income tax being unacceptable as an intrusion into private matters!

When window tax was introduced it consisted of a flat rate of 2 shillings per house (equivalent to £12.73 in 2016), plus an extra 4 shillings (equivalent to £25.47 in 2016) for properties with between ten and twenty windows, and an extra 8 shillings (equivalent to £50.94 in 2016) for properties with more than twenty windows.

In theory it was based on the idea that the more windows a property had the more well off the owner must be, but as you can imagine homeowners began to find loopholes and ways round the tax, some of them simply boarding up or camouflaging the windows until the tax inspector had been! (incidentally this is where the saying 'Daylight Robbery' is meant to have originated!)

The exclusion of windows in new homes began to become common, in some cases lower and middle class houses were built with no bedroom windows at all!

By the 1720’s officials began to get anxious about the declining taxes and also about the standard of living as many heartless landlords (tenements being charged as single residences) were blocking up existing windows or building homes without sufficient windows to avoid paying the tax.

Complaints also grew from the medical profession and others who argued that the lack of light and ventilation was creating a source of disease and ill-health as the industrial revolution began to produce mass housing and crowded cities.

The Window Tax law was amended several times during the 150 years it existed to try to get around the many problems but in 1851 Window Tax was finally repealed and incorporated into the general Duty on Inhabited Houses Tax instead… just in time, as The Crystal Palace, home of London's Great Exhibition was opened later that year – with the new methods of making sheet glass for windows and the ending of Window Tax combining to make substantial savings to the cost of building!

Thankfully those days have long gone and we can get as much light and air into our homes as possible, not to mention the enjoyment of dressing them up with curtains and blinds!

House with bricked up window. Credit: Skill Builder

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