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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

The Underassessment of Mansions, &c

The Underassessment of Mansions, &c.

The following Castles, which are amongst the most magnificent residences in Scotland, each of them erected at a cost of £100,000 to £200,000 are rated for local purposes as follows:—
Floors (Duke of Roxburgh) £350
Drumlanrig (Duke of Buccleuch), including the gardens and pleasure grounds 300
Taymouth (Marquis of Breadalbane) 300
Culzean (Marquis of Ailsa) 150

There are many single offices, shops, and warehouses in Liverpool, Manchester, and London where the assessment to poor's rate is higher than all these four castles put together. But then traders and merchants are "different," we suppose.

Lord Derby, at Knowsley Park, pays for 2,621 acres on an assessment of £4,782. On two farms in the neighbourhood, one of 50 the other of 38 acres, the rating is 53s. per acre. If Knowsley were assessed at the same rate, Lord Derby's local taxes would be £7,000 instead of £4,782. We see here that farmers are "different" too.

A few years ago the assessments of the following great houses to House Duty were publicly given:—
Hatfield (Marquis of Salisbury) @ £900 £33 15 0
Woburn (Duke of Bedford) @ 700 26 5 0
Chatsworth (Duke of Devonshire) @ 1,500 56 3 0
Blenheim (Duke of Marlborough), which cost a quarter of a million to build, and is said to require £100,000 income to maintain in proper style @ 460 16 17 6

There are four piles of Insurance Offices known to us whore the sum totals of assessment and duty exceed these four greatest English noblemen's palaces. It is evident, then, that Insurance Companies are " different."

When the Union Assessment Committee of Nantwich recently advanced the Crewe Assessment of the London and North Western Railway Co. £40,000 at a stroke, it was given in evidence that Crewe Hall and gardens (Lord Crewe) were on the rate-book for the small amount of £500, but were worth £1,500; whilst Peckforton (Lord Tollemache), and Cholmondeley (Marquis of Cholmondeley) were also both considerably under assessed. It is here evident that Railway Companies are "different."

Now how does all this injustice come about? We opine that the main reason is the exclusion of all considerations of building value when dealing with the nobility and gentry. Another reason is that the noble owners are not put on oath as to what they would let their mansions and castles for, just as ordinary people are dealt with. But a third and potent reason is found in the local character of the Assessment Committees, and the considerable influence exercised upon them by dependents of these great landlords. In this connection it is important to remember how greatly the yield of the Assessed Taxes was increased when (about 15 years ago) these were taken out of local hands and entrusted to the Inland Revenue Staff. At that time the following conversation, which really occurred (between an officer of the Department and the Parochial Assessor) was reported in the Blue Book:

Excise Officer.—"I see that Mr. B. is not assessed for either a horse or a carriage, though you know that he keeps both."

Assessor (who is the principal butcher of the neighbourhood).—"Well, sir, you mustn't be hard on a poor man like me. Mr. B. is my best customer, and if I were to charge him after so many years ho has gone on without paying any tax, he would give all his custom to X. at once."