The subsidy was a tax from the reign of Richard II on the reputed value of a subject's lands at a rate of 4s in the pound for land and 2s 8d for goods, aliens being taxed double.
Taxes on movable property were the commonest form of taxation during the middle ages. The tax consisted of a demand for a particular fraction of the value of all movables. All laymen, except the very poorest (those who owned less than ten shillings' worth of property) were obliged to pay. In addition clerics had to pay such taxes on their temporalities, the property which was not taxed under the clerical subsidy.
Until 1334 the assessment, carried out by local commissioners, was a genuine attempt to tax the value of movable property. In the countryside, it was horses, cows, oxen, grain and legumes which were assessed; land, buildings, household goods, tools and food stores were ignored. Military equipment, jewels and plate were also exempted. In urban areas all household goods were assessed, except for the householder's bed and his clothes and those of his wife. Towns and lands of the ancient demesne were taxed at a higher rate, a tenth, while rural areas were taxed at a fifteenth.
In 1334 corruption and the unfair nature of the tax led to a new system of assessment. A senior churchman from the area was sent to negotiate with each town, vill or hundred. The local population decided how much they would return, providing it was no less than the 1332 assessment, and how the tax was to be raised in the area. The national yield was reckoned at £38,000, and this remained fixed thereafter. Over time, the real value of the fixed assessment of £38,000 fell because of exemptions and the effects of repeated plagues; by 1430 the tax yielded only £30,000.
The poll tax was, as the name suggests, a tax on individuals, or 'heads'. Three were granted, in 1377, 1379 and 1380, the attempted collection of the last in 1381 helped to provoke the outbreak of the Peasants' Revolt.
Like the collection of lay subsidies, direct taxation of the clergy became established, after a period of crisis in 1296-97, under Edward I. The clergy contribution was a tenth, levied on the valuation of spiritualities given to Pope Nicholas IV in 1291. This was a tax on the spiritual income of the clergy, namely the income from parish churches. The Church's temporalities, other property and goods belonging to prelates and religious houses, were taxed in the same way as the lay tenth. Until 1334 clerical subsidies were granted by parliaments containing representatives of the lower clergy.
The king was only permitted to tax his subjects in times of national emergency, namely war. However, from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries there remained the possibility of imposing certain feudal dues on subjects, although most other feudal impositions had died out by the reign of Edward I. The King could demand an 'aid' to cope with extraordinary non-military expenditure, the cost of which would otherwise have put the treasury under particular strain. The occasions on which aids were permitted were for the ransoming of the King's body, the knighting of his eldest son, and the marriage of his eldest daughter.