The Commission clearly intended to be thorough in its work. It became clear that they intended to ruin the English Catholics, especially those of Lancashire and Northumberland. Not surprisingly, the Catholic gentry did everything in their power to hide their estates and wealth in any way they could.
Some families placed their property with Protestant relations and never registered at all. Other, smaller families simply hoped to go undetected. Most Catholic families found ways to hide the real value of their property. Coal mines were described as unused, coal royalties omitted, and out-goings and debts exaggerated, but the Commission ignored these and listed only incomes.
In 1719 they reported on 1,718 estates. Claims were issued against them, stating the amount that must be paid. Catholics had to sell many possessions to raise cash and hid others to prevent confiscation. The Commissioners reported this to London, saying there was hardly anything left to seize. They were instructed to begin suing those Catholics who had refused, or were unable, to pay. The reality of the situation was that the Commission demands were so high as to render most Catholics bankrupt and landless. The Catholics were therefore to use any means possible to preserve their estates. They began to deliberately complicate their affairs and became engaged in lengthy legal wrangling.
In fact, this kind of complicated legal dealing achieved considerable success for the Northumbrian Catholics, especially for the smaller landholders. Even when they were forced to sell, very often the estates were bought by friends or relatives who returned them to the original owning families in wills or at a very low price. In 1717 the Commissioners reported the value of forfeited estates as £48,000 a year, but in 1721 they had to admit that all they had been able to recover was property worth £5,000.
Very few of local Catholics actually lost their land or went bankrupt as a result of the Commission's activities, and in the long term almost all the families eventually regained what they had lost and went on into the nineteenth century or later. This was not so true for the larger estates.