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some-than imposts upon materials; hence ale i» more properly taxed than malt.
For the fame reason, excise duties which are impo-» fed on manufacture, are more apparently proper than the duties of customs, which fall indifferently upon material and manufacture. Perhaps a greater revenue might be raised from the duty on sugar, without increasing the burden of the people in general, if the greater proportion of if was charged upon the sugar baker, from an account taken of it after fining.
Smuggling is the constant attendant on heavy duties; and it is a double tax upon the public, because, when it obtains, the revenue is directly diminished, and the failure of the impost, must be compensated by some new imposts *. Besides, in such cases, restrictive laws are made, to prevent abuses of this kind, the execution of which requires an additional number of officers: this subjects the public to an additional expence, without benefiting the revenue; for we apprehend, where the temptation to smuggling is sufficiently powerful, restricting laws have in no one instance had a good effect. To prevent smuggling therefore, taxes ought to be moderate; hence many articles must be taxed. There is another reason for laying moderate taxes on a variety of commodities: When a commodity comes to be subjected to a tax, whether a home manufacture or an import, a certain proportion of the stock employed in carrying on its manufacture or importation must be detached for the purpose of advancing the tax, and such manufacture or trade may suffer by the loss of the stock thus advanced.
Another circumstance merits attention: The fame wants may be supplied by a variety of articles; among these there will be a natural campctitiort of price; an impost on one, will destroy in proportion to its heaviness this natural competition, and may turn the scale in favour of another, until the rise in its price is compensated by improvements in its manufacture or otherwise.
* Lord North laid an additional duty on soap, because the price was falling : as the value of a taxed commodity falls, the tax rises ad vxhrcm i and of course the temptation to smuggling increases, the tax on soap .is at present about 50I. per cent, ad valorem; and it may with probability be predicted, that the quantity of soap charged with duty will fall below its usual average in consequence of smuggling.
Let us now consider, what circumstances should determine us in the choice of subjects of taxation.
Commodities whose manufacture or import are irl the hands of a few, being more easily taken account of than those in the hands of many, imposts on them may be more cheaply collected; Among all manufactured commodities, duties on glass and printed cotton are collected at the least expence. A duty upon delft, stoneware, bricks, tyles, and flower-pots, might be levied at a small expence, the charge to be made at the kiln.
That stage of manufacture which takes up the largest time, is the most proper for taking account of it and charging the duty: Thus, though the duty is imposed , upon drying malt, yet the account of it is taken when in the cistern, couch, or on the floor, not when it comes from the kiln.
Commodities, therefore, whose manufactures" are" • more tedious, are preferable to such as are less so, as subjects of taxation. Bleaching being one of the most' tedious processes we are acquainted with, a duty upon whitened linen or cotton cloih might be charged at the bleaching-fleld with the greatest certainty. *
The advance of duties will be? shorter upon commodities that are not meliorated by keeping, than Upon such as are improved by age.
Commodities that are fit for use, when they have passed through the hands of the manufacturer, are preferable, as subjects of taxation, to those that must be kept for any length of time; the bottle is not the better for the keeping, but the wine is. Hence, during whatever stage of its manufacture, the duty upon -a t commodity may be charged, it should not be exacted till near the time the commodity is fit for use; then
the duty upon glass may be sooner exacted, than that upon wine. The credit given in paying the malt duty is proper; for though it does not improve by keeping, yet the greatest part of it is made many months before it is consumed.
The time of paying the leather duty, is fixed with great propriety. ....... ..... ,
A moderate impost upon commodities of general use or consumption produces a greater revenue than heavy taxes on such as are consumed by the few. The annual amount of the duty on strong beer is about 1,500,000!. The produce of an import of a 1. per ton on wine was }n' 1780' estimated at 30,000 i. per atinum *. .
Commodities of genera) use are preferable subjects of taxation, to those that are less universally consumed or used.
The great consumption of whale oil, even in light* ing the streets, renders it probable that an impost on it would be considerably productive. Candles are taxed. A>duty upon whale oil might be charged at the boiling-house.
A duty on tin-plate charged at the mill would be productive: As would be a duty on gunrpowder.
Merchants and manufacturers complain when the particular branches of trade are taxed. It will, however, be found, that those branches of trade and ma* ( nufacture that have been moderately taxed for a century past, have succeeded, as well as those that have not, or even as such as have been fostered by bounties.
Moderate imposts on manufactures tend perhaps to hasten their improvement, both as a stimulus to ingenuity, and as tending to throw manufactures into the hand of persons possessed of stock.
The revenue arising from licences is considerable; but it seems to be a very unequal mode of taxation.
* The ale duty might he rendered still more productive, by making » realisable ani' e^uitible alteration in the brewery laws.
As licences are paid at once, if not exceedingly moderate, they may, in many cafes, be oppressive.
Confectioners, perfumers, and hair-dressers, might be subjected to the payment of a licence with as much propriety as the retailers .of small beer.
The coach duty may be reckoned a licence tax; being charged per tale, it is not liable to the objection of inequality.
A small duty, charged per ton on all ships and vesr sels, might be levied at little expence, and with great certainty.
Stamp-duties have, of late, become common; all perhaps, that can be said in their favour, is, that they are cheaply collected. They point out no particular improvement by which they can be compensated, They are, in the first instance, unequal, and cannot "be retailed like imposts on merchandize or manufacture. In their payment, nothing is seen but the tax.
"There are two states in Europe, (fays Montesquieu), where there are heavy imposts on liquor; in the one (England), the brewer alone pays the tax; in the other (Holland), it is indiscriminately levied upon all the consumers. In the first, nobody feels the rigour of the impost; in the second, it is looked upon as a grievance." . •
Stamp-duties will always be obnoxious, and every effort will be made to evade them. There is no reason tp apprehend, that before the receipt-tax can be made efficient, such encouragement must be given to informers, as may prove prejudicial to morals.
In spite of Mr. Sherridan.'s assertion, taxes of this kind are perhaps, of all others, the least proper for a. free people.
Farther Explanations of the tendency of the regulations proposed its'our la/}, respeftmg Imprisonment for Debt.
It .will easily be perceivecf, "tharthe two great points aimed at in the foregoing regulations are, to throw bars in the way of wanton imprisonment of debtors; and to render it difficult for a bankrupt ever to live in ease and . affluence until his just debts shall have been all paid.
The only particular that will seem singular, and will be liable to be misunderstood, is that regulation which permifs every individual creditor, after the bankrupt's effects have been fold, and an equal dividend of the price of fhem has been made among the whole, to arrest the debtor's effects, and to apply the price of them towards the payment of his .own debts only, without communicating any part of it to the other creditors: some explanation of the reasons that suggested that regulation may therefore be necessary.
It is found by experience, that where many persons are alike interested in any transaction, where the value of the whole is much greater than that of the separate parts, an individual seldom chooses to take upon himself the disagreeable task of a prosecutor, where others are to be equally benefited by that prosecution as himself. On this account, it is found by experience, that after a bankrupt's effects have beep once fold, and a dividend of them made, his creditors seldom ever think of recovering any more from him at a future period; and therefore seldom hesitate about granting a discharge; so that, should the debtor, in a very short time acquire affluence, his original creditors must be content to bear their loss with patience. This circumstance is no doubt carefully remarked by those who have a fraudulent bankruptcy in view, the chance of its taking place carefully computed, and their conduct Vol. I. t t