Rates are taxes on the occupiers of land and buildings. Various Acts in the 16th century provided for a poor rate for the relief of the sick and destitute, but in England “the rates” date back formally to the Poor Relief Act of 1601, which made the parish the administrative unit for rating.
The Rating and Valuation Act (1925) brought in the general rate and made county boroughs, boroughs, etc. the rating authorities and the units of rating.
The rates were unpopular because they were mildly regressive and paid by only a part of the local electorate. Domestic rates, but not business rates, were abolished in 1989-93, in Scotland, and in 1990-3, in England and Wales, when they were replaced by the community charge or poll tax.