Unlike many taxes, customs duties were easy to collect and difficult to avoid. Though they were never popular, they did not lead to some of the disasters associated with other taxes. Customs duties were one of the most reliable sources of public revenue for many centuries.
Customs duties still generate revenue, but the modern Customs Service has far wider functions. Its roles include the prevention of international trade in drugs, illegal goods and other socially harmful products.
Find out more about the present-day work of Her Majesty's Customs and Excise: