From the Wikipedia entry on Tax per head:

With the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Convention Parliament of 1660 instituted a poll tax to finance the disbanding of the New Model Army (pay arrears, etc.) (12 Charles II c.9). The poll tax was assessed according to “rank”, e.g. dukes paid £100, earls £60, knights £20, esquires £10. Eldest sons paid 2/3rds of their father’s rank, widows paid a third of their late husband’s rank. The members of the livery companies paid according to company’s rank (e.g. masters of first-tier guilds like the Mercers paid £10, whereas masters of fifth-tier guilds, like the Clerks, paid 5 shillings). Professionals also paid differing rates, e.g. physicians (£10), judges (£20), advocates (£5), attorneys (£3), and so on. Anyone with property (land, etc.) paid 40 shillings per £100 earned, anyone over the age of 16 and unmarried paid 12-pence and everyone else over 16 paid 6-pence.

(Fetched 27 July 2013.)

5 Annotations

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

For your Poll-Bill, I do thank you as much as if the Money were to come into my own Coffers; and wish with all my Heart, that it may amount to as great a Sum as you reckon upon. If the Work be well and orderly done, to which it is designed, I am sure I shall be the richer by it in the end; and upon my word, if I had wherewithal, I would myself help you, so much I desire the Business done. I pray very earnestly, as fast as Money comes in, discharge that great Burthen of the Navy, and disband the Army as fast as you can; and till you can disband the rest, make a Provision for their Support.
---Charles II. Speech to both Houses of Parliament, 29th of August, 1660.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

John Evelyn's Diary – he and Mary Browne Evelyn live at Saye's Court, Deptford.



6 October, 1660.
I paid the great tax of poll money, levied for disbanding the army, till now kept up.
I paid as an Esquire 10/., and one shilling for every servant in my house.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

poll tax -- noun
a tax levied on every adult, without reference to income or resources.

In English history, a tax of a uniform amount levied on each individual, or “head.”

The abolition of the poll tax in Britain was announced on 21 March, 1991. Margaret Thatcher introduced one, which probably caused the downfall of her government.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Pepys Diary -- Monday 10 December 1660

"This afternoon there was a couple of men with me with a book in each of their hands, demanding money for pollmoney, and I overlooked the book and saw myself set down Samuel Pepys, gent. 10s. for himself and for his servants 2s., which I did presently pay without any dispute, but I fear I have not escaped so, and therefore I have long ago laid by 10/. for them, but I think I am not bound to discover myself."


So neither Elizabeth Pepys or Mary Evelyn counted as a head in the poll tax, but the teenage servants did count, at a greatly reduced rate (to Pepys' evident relief).
This confirms my theory that it was the household that was taxed, even when it was called a Poll Tax, because living in past centuries was a communal activity.
I think the 17th century method was better than how we do it today. So put on the music, open the front door, and drink wine and philosophise until midnight with friends and neighbors. Live like Pepys -- but this time around, Mary and Elizabeth must be counted as people, even if that costs another 2s!

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.