Direct taxation in England : the experimental subsidies of the fifteenth century

This article considers the rate-based taxes called subsidies levied in England in the fifteenth century. By way of background, the article gives an overview of the sources of the king's revenue, the role of direct taxes in the revenue mix, the taxation of the clergy, and the fifteenth and tenth as a quota-based tax. The article then examines each subsidy granted by Parliament in the fifteenth century. A distinctive feature of these subsidies was that they levied tax based on the (clear) yearly value of property. Although the concepts of yearly value and clear yearly value were not new, the subsidies applied these concepts to taxation in a consistent and sustained manner and extended them to virtually all types of revenue-producing property (e.g. lands) and recurring sources of revenue (e.g. annuities). These subsidies were the first direct taxes in England to apply the concepts of yearly value and clear yearly value in the context of taxation and to apply them broadly to many types of property. These subsidies established the precedent for the Tudor subsidy of the sixteenth century which, with modifications and improvements, was the only true and successful rate-based tax in England until the income tax in the nineteenth century.