This is a brief guide to researching British government records on taxation. Tax records are wide-ranging and plentiful, though they can sometimes be complicated and not all survive. Of those that survive, most are available online or at The National Archives.
This guide will help you to gain a general overview of the main sources of the information that exists, and where to find it. The guide is for people interested in the subject of taxation as opposed to those interested in finding a specific person.
E 179 database of Records of the Exchequer (c.1190–c.1690)
Search the E 179 database by place, tax, document type and date for records relating to lay and clerical taxation in England and Wales.
Read our research guide to Cabinet and its committees for advice on searching our catalogue for cabinet papers.
The archived Cabinet Papers site has themed pages which you can browse, some with links to downloadable documents.
House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (1715–2005)
Search the Parliamentary papers website (institutional subscription required) for sessional papers on taxation in the House of Commons. These records are searchable in a number of ways, including by keyword, date and paper number.
Public Acts of Parliament (1801–present)
Search by date for Public General Acts of Parliament as they were originally enacted.
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).
There are many different records covering taxation at The National Archives. Try searching Discovery, our catalogue with a specific term, name or subject to help focus your search.
The most popular records on the subject of taxation are within series IR, CUST, T and E. To gain an overview of an individual series, read the descriptions within our catalogue.
Search, browse and consult the following series to gain an overview of government records related to taxation:
- Inland Revenue (IR) – mostly general and administrative records on taxes, duties, lotteries and records of estates
- Customs and Excise (CUST) – general and administrative records of the Board of Customs and Excise and its predecessors
- HM Treasury (T) – records of the Treasury
- Exchequer (E) – records of the Exchequer
- Chancery (C) – records of the Chancery and its predecessors
Bear in mind that there is likely to be some overlap between separate series on any given subject. For example, a decision on taxation may have been informed by the Treasury (T), discussed by the Cabinet (CAB) and Prime Minister (PREM) and then carried out by the Inland Revenue (IR).
Records in other archives and organisations
Scottish taxation records
Consult the National Records of Scotland’s taxation records guide to find out what records they hold and how best to access them.
Records held locally
The National Archives’ catalogue contains collections and contact details of local archives around the UK and beyond. To locate these records, search our catalogue with keywords and refine your results to ‘Other archives’ using the filters.
Search Hansard on the Parliament.uk website to view the full text of debates on taxation which took place in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. You can search by date, member of Parliament, or keyword. Not all debates have been transcribed.
Search The Times Archive and the Guardian and Observer Digital Archive to view articles (£) about some of the public statements and more newsworthy reports on taxation.