Catalogue description Records of the Boards of Customs, Excise, and Customs and Excise, and HM Revenue and Customs

Details of CUST
Reference: CUST
Title: Records of the Boards of Customs, Excise, and Customs and Excise, and HM Revenue and Customs

Records of the Boards of Customs, Excise, and Customs and Excise, and HM Revenue and Customs, relating to the management of the revenues of customs and excise.


  • General records of imports and exports to and from Britain and its colonies
  • British and Irish outport records
  • Welsh outport records
  • Offshore islands outport records
  • Central administrative records (Board of Customs to 1909)
  • Central administrative records (Board of Excise to 1909)
  • Central administrative records (Board of Customs and Excise from 1909)
  • Purchase of Land to Build Customs House, London
  • Ships registers
  • Irish Customs Board records

For series created for regularly archived websites, please see the separate Websites Division.

Date: 1554-2021
Related material:

Further records of the board are preserved at HM Revenue and Customs under the Public Records Act 1958.

For records created and inherited by the Board of Inland Revenue please see IR

Separated material:

Records at the London Custom House suffered severely from fires in 1715 and 1814.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Board of Customs, 1671-1909

Board of Customs and Excise, 1909-2005

Board of Excise, 1642-1849

Board of Inland Revenue, 1849-2005

HM Revenue and Customs, 2005-

Physical description: 212 series
Access conditions: Open unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:


HM Revenue and Customs

Board of Excise

Board of Customs and Excise

Board of Customs

Administrative / biographical background:

Board of Excise

Excise duties, being inland duties levied on articles at the place of manufacture, were introduced by the Long Parliament in 1642. A Board of Excise was established to organise the collection of the duties, personally in London and by subcommissioners in the provinces. At first the duties were applied only in such districts as Parliament controlled.

Later duties extended to the whole country. A permanent Board of Excise was established in 1683. A separate board for Scotland was set up after the Act of Union in 1707, and for Ireland in 1807.

A number of import duties were managed by the commissioners of excise, either solely or jointly with the Board of Customs.

An act of 1823 provided for the appointment of a single Board of Excise, under Treasury control, for the whole of the United Kingdom, replacing the separate boards for England, Scotland and Ireland; and for not more than four assistant commissioners of excise to transact current business in Scotland and Ireland, under the control of the board in London. This arrangement ended in 1830 when the number of commissioners of excise was reduced from seventeen to seven, with one establishment in London covering the whole of the United Kingdom.

The repeal of a number of excise duties in the ensuing years made it practicable to dispense with a separate board to manage the remaining ones and in 1849 it was combined with the Board of Stamps and Taxes to form the Board of Inland Revenue. The Excise Department remained a distinct section of the Board of Inland Revenue.

Board of Customs

By an ordinance of 21 January 1643 regulation of the collection of customs was entrusted to a parliamentary committee whose members were appointed commissioners and collectors of customs, forming virtually a Board of Customs. This and succeeding committees appointed by Parliament until 1660, and thereafter by the crown, functioned until 1662, when those who had been serving as commissioners became lessees of a new farm of the customs. This continued until 1671. The appointment in 1671 of six commissioners to manage the customs duties in England and Wales marked the establishment of a permanent Board of Customs. This was amalgamated with the separate boards for Ireland and Scotland in 1823 to form a single board for the UK.

The Board of Customs performed many functions apart from the main one of the collection of the customs revenue. That work carried with it the prevention and detection of smuggling and other evasions of the revenue laws, and the collection of statistics of imports, exports and shipping. As customs officers were stationed at all chief ports and harbours, their services were utilised in relation to many matters unconnected with the customs revenue. It was the logical instrument for enforcing the trade laws, in particular the Navigation Laws until repealed in 1849; and for dealing with sundry matters in relation to governmental interest in embargo, wreck, quarantine, impressment of seamen, and protection of the coast in time of war.

Board of Customs and Excise

Under the Finance Act 1908 the administration of excise and of work in connection with the award and assessment of non-contributory old age pensions was from 1 April 1909 transferred from the Board of Inland Revenue to the Board of Customs which thereupon became the Board of Customs and Excise.

Following this the primary function of the board was, subject to the control of the Treasury, the management of the revenues of customs and excise. These included the collection of duties on certain commodities which may be charged both as customs duties on imported goods and excise duties on home-produced goods. The board's revenue work carried with it the prevention and detection of smuggling, illicit distillation and other evasions of the tax laws.

Duties formerly the responsibility of the board included the duty on medicines taken over from the Board of Inland Revenue in 1909 and collected until its abolition under the Pharmacy and Medicine Act 1941; railway passenger duty, also inherited from the Board of Inland Revenue, and collected until its repeal under the Finance Act 1929; entertainments duty from its introduction in 1916 until its abolition in 1960; the unsuccessful betting duty introduced in 1926 and dropped in 1929 due to rampant evasion; playing card duty abolished in 1960 after 249 years' existence; and television advertisement duty from 1961 to 1964. The board was also responsible for purchase tax which was in force from 1940 to 1973 and applied to a great range of goods. The board took over responsibility for registration of moneylenders from the Board of Inland Revenue in 1927. This task, together with others, in connection with occupational licences for hawkers, pawnbrokers and refreshment house keepers, passed to local authorities under the Finance Act 1949. The excise duties on licences for appraisers, auctioneers, house agents and plate dealers were abolished under the same act. The television excise licence duty ceased to be levied in 1963 and retail liquor excise licences were abolished by the Finance Act 1967.

The board collected statistics of imports, exports and shipping for the published trade and shipping returns. Under the Merchant Shipping Acts it had various functions connected with ship registry, light dues, wreck and mercantile marine work; it also collected passenger returns on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry. It also administered import and export licensing and exchange controls. It was responsible for the enforcement of public health regulations in regard to ships and aircraft on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Security.

The board enforced prohibitions and restrictions on the importation of dangerous drugs, infected goods, animals, indecent or obscene articles, etc, and also enforced import prohibitions. On behalf of the Home Office it enforced immigration and emigration controls at certain minor ports and airports. The board gave assistance in enforcing the Sea Fisheries Acts and Conventions and ensured that imported gold and silver plate, unless exempt from assay requirements, is sent to an assay office. It is also closely involved in international co-operation with other countries on customs matters, including those arising from UK membership of the European Economic Community.

On 1 May 1941 the board became responsible for the investigation, on behalf of the Board of Trade, of claims in respect of war damage to chattels where loss caused undue hardship. On 1 June 1941 it became responsible, with the Assistance Board, for the emergency issue of clothing coupons on behalf of the Board of Trade. Both these duties passed to the direct administration of the Board of Trade in 1948.

HM Revenue and Customs

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was formed following the merger of the Board of Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise, which was made formal by Parliament on 18 April 2005.

HMRC administers and advises the Chancellor of the Exchequer on any matters connected with the following areas: income, corporation, capital gains, inheritance, insurance premium, stamp, land and petroleum revenue taxes; environmental taxes; value added tax (VAT); customs duties and frontier protection; excise duties; national insurance; tax credits, child benefit and the Child Trust Fund; enforcement of the minimum wage; and recovery of student loan repayments. HMRC is also responsible for the Valuation Office executive agency.

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