The Age of George III

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The Irish Absentee Land Tax, 1773

In December 1772 the new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Harcourt, found himself faced with a public debt of £1 million and desperately needed new sources of revenue. During the summer of 1773 it was proposed in the Dublin parliament that absentee landlords (those who spent more than six months of the year out of Ireland) should be taxed at 2/- in the £ on all their landed property. Lord North's ministry agreed to support the measure if the Irish parliament chose to propose it. Lord Hertford, the Lord Chamberlain and an Irish absentee, opposed the decision and warned other absentee landlords of the plans. The Marquis of Rockingham went on to organise the opposition - understandably, because fifteen of his major supporters owned lands worth at least £85,000 p.a. in Ireland between them. A 10% tax just on the Rockinghamites would have raised £8,500 and altogether, absentees were taking well in excess of £450,000 out of Ireland every year.

The proposal was killed off by the efforts of the Marquis of Rockingham's activities in rousing opposition to it in the House of Lords. However, the mere idea that the Irish parliament could even contemplate such a piece of legislation frightened British peers and MPs alike.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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