26 November 1992: The Queen volunteers to pay income tax

With Britain in recession and Windsor Castle having recently caught fire, the Queen's request to pay income tax was accepted by Parliament, on this day in 1992.

The dawning of the 1990s brought with it the first contractions in the British economy. With money tight, people started to look around for ways to cut down on state spending. It was only a matter of time before the Queen fell under their gaze.

In 1992, Her Majesty informed the prime minister, John Major, that she wished to make a few tweaks to her tax affairs. She wanted to been seen to be paying income tax just like anybody else. The matter took on a greater urgency later that year, when Windsor Castle, one of her favourite royal residences, caught fire. It wasn't going to be cheap to repair.

It wasn't too surprising, then, that just under a week after the blaze, on 26 November, Parliament happily agreed to the new arrangements, which took effect the following April. In addition, only the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen Mother would receive funds from the public purse from now on.

Back then, as now, the Queen received income from three main sources. There was the Civil List, a state grant these days called the Sovereign Grant, which amounts to 15% of the profits from the Crown Estate, and which covers official expenditure. The Sovereign Grant was £49.4m in 2019-20, with an extra £33m to go on "re-servicing" Buckingham Palace. 

Then there are her own private investments, which are just that – private, so never you mind. And lastly, the Duchy of Lancaster, which makes up the bulk of the Privy Purse. The modern Duchy of Lancaster was created way back in 1399 as a way to provide the English monarch with a few bob. It is run for the Queen, but not by the Queen, and it is essentially the mother of all property portfolios. Comprising around 18,433 hectares in England and Wales, the portfolio also includes office, retail and industrial properties, with a combined value in the region of £538m. And of course, there's Windsor and nine other castles. For the year to March 2020, the Duchy of Lancaster raked in £23m, a 7% increase on the previous year. It is on these revenues that the Queen pays income tax. Exactly how much isn't disclosed.

 

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