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Administrative Areas in the History of Income Tax Law

In July 2022 Professor Chantal Stebbings gave a paper entitled ‘Administrative Areas in the History of Income Tax Law: A Challenging Anachronism’ at the History of Tax Law Conference, University of Cambridge. In this talk, illustrated with copious maps and images, she examined a hitherto unresearched area in the history of tax administration, namely the territorial framework to the assessment of income tax. The administration of income tax from 1799 was in the hands of local lay commissioners, and was based on geographical divisions of the country, namely the historic counties, subdivided into commissioners’ ‘Divisions’ reflecting the ancient hundreds, which were themselves subdivided into parishes. By historical accident this framework was fixed and immoveable, because it was tied to the territorial organisation of the old land tax. The paper traced the challenges created by this anachronism, and analysed why it persisted until the middle of the twentieth, with consequences enduring until the abolition of the localist system in 2009.