Government announces plans to pursue descendants of historical tax evaders
HM Revenue & Customs has hired a team of financial genealogists to help address the deficit created by our ancestors, estimated to be “millions of pounds”
Officers receiving and weighing coins from taxpayers at the Exchequer in Westminster, c1150 (Credit: Getty Images)
Update: 4 April 2017 – The below news story was in fact an April Fools' joke! We hope that you enjoyed reading it!
The British government has announced plans to pursue the descendants of tax evaders for missing payments dating back “hundreds of years”.
Historically, taxes have been imposed upon the population for a wide range of items and possessions, many of which are now defunct.
However, alarmingly high levels of tax evasion and avoidance committed by previous generations means that “millions of pounds” could be missing from the public coffers.
To address the shortfall, HM Revenue & Customs has recruited a team of financial genealogists, who will scour historic records in an attempt to find the descendants of the worst culprits.
Those with a proven ancestral connection to a fraudster forebear could have to cough up extra cash from 1 April 2018.
“Many historic taxes seem ludicrous to the modern eye,” said Dr Loof Lirpa, senior lecturer in economic history at Scunthorpe Metropolitan University.
“For example, there was a tax implemented in 1712 on printed wallpaper, and in 1795 a tax on wig powder, which completely killed the trend for hairpieces.”
As avid genealogists will know, many of our forebears did not pay their taxes. One researcher, Owen Money, told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine that he was “shocked” by some of the discoveries he made during a recent trip to the archives.
“When I researched my paternal family tree back to the 18th century, I was astonished to find that they were mostly tax dodgers – especially when it came to window tax,” he said.
“I hope I can figure out the exact amount I owe the government, so I will be prepared when they ask for it.”
Worried? We all are. If you would like help finding out what your ancestors did pay, read our guide to the best websites for forgotten taxation records here.