Community Charge – AKA the Poll Tax

31 March 1990 A Trafalgar Square riot after a 200,000-strong protest against the Community Charge – AKA the Poll Tax – prompted the downfall of prime minister Margaret Thatcher in November that year.

  • Millions across the UK refused to pay the tax, causing the local councils that collected it cash-flow problems.
  • More than one million people went missing from the electoral roll to avoid paying.
  • By June 1990 one in five UK taxpayers had paid no Community Charge.
  • The tax was replaced in 1993, by which time 88% of people were refusing or delaying payment.

Homemade anti-Poll Tax T-shirt with Militant and Socialist Worker logos

The system was brought in to replace household rates, which had been based on the house’s size. Instead, each person in a home had to pay a charge. It meant a lord in a manor house paid the same as a school-leaver sharing a home with parents and siblings.

Scotland first

The Community Charge was launched in Scotland, where the protest started. Tommy Sheridan, then part of the Militant socialist group and later a Scottish MSP, was the leading figure. Anti-poll tax groups sprang up around the country to defend non-payers threatened with bailiffs.

Although councils that took action against people to recover unpaid tax can continue to do so, there was a six-year limit on starting legal cases.

By 1 April 1999, six years after the final year of the Community Charge, more than 400,000 people had refused to pay more than £5m in tax that will now never be paid.


Guardian article

Guardian: Poll tax is history

The rebels have finally got away with it, writes Chris Wheal. Six years on from the hated levy, up to £5 billion arrears will be written off. (Image and headline link to article)


Peasants’ revolt | Cornish rebellion | Jack Cade | Boston tea party |


Whealie is the trademarked nickname of award-winning freelance journalist Chris Wheal. Follow @whealie on Twitter Wheal's Business website is He sometimes blogs at He's on Facebook: And LinkedIn: Flickr: Instagram: YouTube: Vimeo:

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