In 1796, legacy duty was imposed and regulated by the Legacy Duty Act 1796. Legacy duty was a tax payable on legacies and residues of personal estate of deceased persons. Such duties were only payable on certain types of bequests and only by certain persons defined by their degree of consanguinity (blood-relationship) to the deceased. Through further Acts such as the Legacy Duty Act 1805 and the Stamp Act 1815, this duty was extended to cash legacies and residues bequeathed in wills which were to be raised by the sale of real estate, but not to the acquisition of real estate as such. By the same Acts, the group of beneficiaries liable to pay the duty was also enlarged.
Legacy duty was administered by the Board of Stamps, and a strengthened and reconstituted Legacy Duty Office was set up in 1812 under that Board. In 1834 the Board of Stamps was succeeded by the Board of Stamps and Taxes, which in 1849 was succeeded by the Board of Inland Revenue.
In 1853 succession duty was first imposed by Gladstone under the Succession Duty Act 1853. This was payable on the gratuitous acquisition of property on death, whether this was the personal estate, real estate or leasehold of the deceased. Succession duty was added to the Legacy Duty Office's responsibilities, and the Office was renamed the Legacy and Succession Duty Office.
In 1894, estate duty was imposed by Part 1 of the Finance Act 1894. It superseded probate duty and account duty and was chargeable on all property passing on death, without regard to the relationship of the beneficiaries to the deceased owner. In 1899 the Legacy and Succession Duty Office was renamed the Estate Duty Office.
In 1949, legacy and succession duties were repealed under Part III of the Finance Act 1949, and the only death duty then in force was the estate duty. The Estate Duty Office, headed from 1919 by a controller of death duties, handled the assessment and collection of this duty. For its assessment work the Office had access to all wills and administrations, and had authority to call for all settlements, deeds of gift and other documents under which claims for death duty might arise. An abstract of all such claims was made in registers compiled for the purpose. There was a separate Scottish office in Edinburgh under a registrar of death duties.
Under the Finance Act 1975 estate duty was abolished and replaced by a capital transfer tax. In January 1977 the Office was renamed the Capital Taxes Office.