Update: 12.01pm, 1 April 2014: It was confirmed to us at midday today (1 April), that this was a foolish policy after all and won't be going ahead. Mr I. M. Fibbing, senior lecturer in architecture at a red brick university, says: "We're relieved that this was just a silly joke."
Millions of households could be hit with higher bills from 1 April 2016, after civil service documents reveal the Government is considering replacing the controversial council tax in England, Wales and Scotland with a brick tax.
Last used in 1850, brick tax imposed a charge (five shillings and 10 pence) – around £22 in today's money – for every 1,000 bricks a home is made up of.
The documents reveal the new Government pricing policy is based on £50 per 1,000 bricks. The levy could replace council tax as early as 1 April 2015.
Someone with a typical four bedroom terraced house, which is made up of around 36,000 bricks, will be charged £1,800 a year – an increase of over £350 compared to the average Band D council tax charge of £1,444 a year.
However, for those living in smaller abodes, the change could potentially reduce bills. Someone with a Band D, two bedroom detached house, which has around 12,000 bricks, for example, will pay £1,200 a year – a saving of more than £200 a year.
'Old laws were there for a reason'
April Smith, spokeswoman for the Institute for Tax History, says: "The brick tax was controversial within its own era, so it's a surprise it's being brought back. Yet the idea is built on fairness and simplicity, which has long appealed to policymakers. It strips a home down to its bare bones, how many bricks are in it – so is an approximation of a home's value."
The current council tax was introduced in 1991. Tax bands were allocated by a quick fix valuation done by driving down streets. This temporary valuation still dictates bands in England and Scotland 23 years on. Bands in Wales have since been revalued.
MoneySavingExpert.com has been campaigning for years about the problems with council tax, and thousands have followed founder Martin Lewis' Check and Challenge your band and got refunds of thousands of pounds.
Martin Lewis says: "It's quite staggering that it looks like we're moving towards yet another form of local taxation in what seems a knee jerk reaction.
"We still rely on 1989 rates to dictate many people's water bills, 400,000 people are thought to be in the wrong bands in England and Wales due to council tax misbranding errors, and now we're going to literally start bricking it.
"The structure of the brick tax seems foolish. It's almost the mirror opposite of the community charge which focused entirely on the number of people in a home regardless of its value. This charge focuses solely on the property size, regardless of location or residency. I hope these proposals won't last long."
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Loopholes to be walled up
The Government has refused to comment on the plans, though we have been told an ad hoc press conference will be held around midday today.
Taxation experts question how the Government will use the brick tax to levy charges on those in concrete and wooden homes. It's thought they will be given an assessed charge, similar to those unable to get water meters. It is expected this will provide additional work in the building industries, which is likely to provide valuations.
However, it appears those living in houseboats or caravans will be unaffected by today's announcement.
When brick tax was first introduced during the reign of King George III, manufacturers attempted to mitigate the effect by increasing the size of bricks so that less were needed to a build a home.
But in response the Government introduced a maximum volume for a brick, and it's thought it could do the same this time round.
Calculate your charge
According to the papers MoneySavingExpert.com has seen, builders will be evaluating all homes to calculate how many bricks have been used. It's not clear yet when this will happen, but in the meantime you can use this brick calculator to get an idea of how much you'll be charged.
DIY retailer Wickes says around 60 bricks are needed per square metre. However, as most walls are double thickness, it means for every square metre of your home there's likely to be 120 bricks.
We're not sure yet whether extensions, conservatories, garages and brick outhouses will be subject to the tax, but we will update this news story as soon as we hear anything.