On this day in 1694, Thomas Bowrey paid £60 tax although, if you read his receipt, you would be excused if you did not immediately realise this. The receipt describes Bowrey’s payment of tax as his subscription.
As we consider the effects of the Chancellor’s latest budget, we will no doubt hear mention of ring-fencing tax for the NHS or other purposes. In reality, this no longer happens. In Bowrey’s day, taxes were paid for specific purposes – to raise an army, fight a war or, in this case, set up the Bank of England. Each tax was imposed by its own act of Parliament.
The tax Bowrey was paying was introduced by a Parliamentary at for Granting to Their Majesties [William and Mary] serveral Rates and Duties upon Tunnage of Ships and Vessells, and upon and upon beer, ale, and other liquors, for securing certain recompenses and advantages in the said Act mentioned, to such persons as shall voluntarily advance the sum of fifteen hundred thousand pounds towards carrying on the war with France. You will notice the word voluntarily but no mention of the Bank of England in the title. However, the act continued but authorising the raising of £1,200,000 by voluntary subscription. They were to be formed into a corporation and become The Governor and Company of the Bank of England. Another £300,000 was also to be raised, also by subscription, and these contributors were to receive instead annuities for one, two, or three lives.
I admit to deliberately misleading you at the start of this post. The receipt makes it clear that Bowrey’s subscription was his contribution to the £1.2m and he was, in fact, investing in the Bank of England and was becoming a member of the Company. However, tax ever was ever complex and confusing. The setting up of the Bank of England was the first stage in the introduction the National Debt – something our taxes are still atrtempting to pay off today.