The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14
The Stamp Duties
The Stamp Duties
|Years ended 31st March.||Deeds and other Instruments.||Probates of Wills.||Legacies and Successions.||Insurances, Fire.||Insurances Marine.||Bills of Exchange, Bankers' Notes, and Composition.||Receipts and Drafts.||Other Receipts.||Total.|
* Duties reduced.
† Stamp Duty upon Fire Insurances repealed from 25th of June, 1869.
‡ Receipts from Fee and Patent Stamps carried to "Miscellaneous Revenue" from 1st April, 1882.
The Legal Deed Duties.
The heavy charges in Stamps on Leases, Conveyances, Agreements, and other legal documents, are here shown to produce about two millions per annum, or as much as an additional 1d. in the £ on the Income and Property Tax Schedules of the whole kingdom, and when it is remembered that 140,000 persons had to pay the £1,811,945, while ten times that number would contribute to a similar amount in Income Tax, it may be fairly pointed out that the unhappy 140,000 transferees of Land, Houses, &c., had to pay 10d. in the £ additional tax on their incomes, besides the 5d. in the £ which they parted with as payers of Income Tax. Now the Financial Reform Association strenuously asserts this to be an injustice and a hardship. Why should men be taxed for selling a house or a field when no tax is imposed for selling a ship or a bale of cotton goods? There is no basis of equity in such taxation, and the only class that can benefit from it are the close corporation of lawyers, whose charges (sufficiently exorbitant in all respects) are further aggravated by these Government Stamps on legal deeds. And this is not all, for some of the house property may change hands many times a year, and is taxed afresh every time it is transferred.
The Death Duties.
|1.||Many corporations who own real estate escape paying altogether. Several Municipal and Ecclesiastical Corporations hold great landed estates, and the Charity Trusts alone (of which there are 50,000) hold 524,000 acres of land, with a gross rental of more than one and a half millions per annum.|
|2.||The heirs of the great landlords pay but a trifling percentage, and that percentage is levied only on an estimated life-interest capitalized, instead of on the full value of the freehold. The Ducal Estate of £50,000 a year, and which is worth £1,500,000, descending to an heir-at-law aged 64, pays three per cent., or £12,800, Succession Duty but a merchant or manufacturer leaving personalty of the same value would have to pay £45,000 Probate Duty, and another £45,000 Legacy Duty—in all £90,000!|
|3.||Small legacies of money are oppressively mulcted as compared with large fortunes.|
|4.||Grossly unfair advantage is taken of intestacy, mainly to the vexation and detriment of persons of small means.|
|5.||Foreigners holding personalty here escape Legacy Duty, but Englishmen leaving personalty abroad become liable to pay.|
|6.||The scale based on consanguinity acts with cruel hardship upon many of our struggling people! A millionaire's child pays nothing to Legacy Duty for personal estate, but the adopted child of a mechanic pays ten per cent. A man marrying his deceased wile's sister would only pay three per cent, on any properly she might bequeath to him, but if he died first she would be charged ten per cent, on anything he left to her. A legacy from a stepmother pays ten per cent., but a legacy to a stepmother pays nothing—and so on.|
Legacy and Succession Duties.
Amount paid at each Rate in the Year ended 31st March, 1886.
|Rates of Duty.||Amount of Duty.||Amount of Properly upon which Duty was paid.|
|1 per cent.||*229,481||22,941,851|
|2½ per cent.||9||371|
|3 per cent.||1,016,813||33,879,096|
|4 per cent.||4||93|
|5 per cent.||188,618||3,771,256|
|6 per cent.||26,890||448,003|
|8 per cent.||35||444|
|10 per cent.||1,030,665||10,303,539|
|Under 56 G. 3. c. 56||167||30,720|
|1 per cent.||335,428||33,296,497|
|3 per cent.||267,112||8,828,308|
|5 per cent.||42,100||835,334|
|6 per cent.||11,109||183,772|
|10 per cent.||228,867||2,272,618|
Mr. Joseph Dodds, M.P. (a Vice-President of the Financial Reform Association) has persistently attacked and exposed the inequities of the system upon which the Death Duties are and have been assessed. To his agitation has been mainly duo the reforms carried out in 1880 and 1881 (by successive Ministers) in the collection of Probate Duty, which reforms have palpably relieved the burden upon small personal estates, and in a pamphlet Mr. Dodds has dealt exhaustively with the whole subject in view of further simplifications and reforms.—["Death Duties," by Joseph Dodds, M.P. Published at Financial Reform Offices.] It may be mentioned, as showing the extent of benefit conferred by Mr. Gladstone's alteration of this duty in 1881, that the total number of estates exempted by it from Legacy Duty amounted to 32,915 in the first twelve months.
* The 1 per cent, duty was repealed as from 1st June, 1881, under the Act 44 & 45 Vict. c. 12.
How Land Escapes the Death Duties.
|Years inclusive.||Probate, &c., *Duties, commenced in England, June 28. 1694; in Scotland. 1779; in Ireland, March 25, 1785.||Legacy Duty,† commenced in Great Britain, June 1, 1780; in Ireland, March 25, 1785.||Succession Duty Imposed in 1852.||Totals.||Years inclusive.|
|1797 to 1806||1,676,843||409,146‡||2,085,989||1797 to 1806|
|1807 to 1816||4,682,832||5,377,636||10,060,468||1807 to 1816|
|1817 to 1826||8,112,216||9,855,259||17,967,475||1817 to 1826|
|1827 to 1836||9,287,238||11,955,581||21,242,819||1827 to 1836|
|1837 to 1846||10,117,772||11,394,953||21,512,725||1837 to 1846|
|1847 to 1852||6,526,214||7,909,735||14,435,949||1847 to 1852|
|1853 to 1858||6,154,929||5,549,778||2,823,485||14,528,192||1853 to 1858|
|1859 to 1869||17,080,713||19,751,271||6,906,179||53,738,163||1859 to 1869|
|1870 to 1881||30,753,689|||31,125,400||8,678,181||71,557,270||1870 to 1881|
|1882 to 1886||19,420,016||13,301,813||4,185,699||36,907,528||1882 to 1886|
This Table, of itself, affords a sufficient answer to the clamours of the landed gentry and others, who complain that Real Property is sadly overburdened in the matter of Taxation. It shows that from 1797 to 1886, Personalty paid, in the shape of Probate, Administration, and Legacy Duties, from which Realty is wholly exempted, no less a sum than £230,000,000. And this is only part of the case; for of the produce of the Probate Duty for 111 years in England, i.e., from 1694 to 1805, for 26 years in Scotland, and for 31 years in Ireland—as also of the produce of the Legacy Duty for 17 years in Great Britain, and for 32 years in Ireland—we have no account at all. Furthermore, Real and Personal Property were both included in Pitt's Legacy Bill of 1780. Its division into two Bills was deemed expedient, and the Commons passed both; but the Lords only adopted that relating to Personalty, rejecting the other; so that for upwards of 70 years Realty enjoyed entire exemption from these duties. Yet again: the Succession Duty imposed in 1853, as some sort of palliation for this gross injustice, has been frittered down to one on the Succession valued as a life annuity, and made payable by easy instalments, so that its annual yield, instead of the £2,000,000 anticipated by Mr. Gladstone, or the £8,000,000 by Lord Cairns, is only something between £600,000 and £800,000. Once more : what if the successor die before the instalments are paid? Considering these and other matters of the like nature, are not the Landholders somewhat imprudent in disregarding Mr. Cobden's warning not to put the people upon inquiring into Taxation, lest they should discover how "they have been robbed and bamboozled for ages by the Aristocracy."
* No account for England or Scotland till 1805, or for Ireland till 1817.
† No account tor Great Britain prior to 1797, or for Ireland till 1817.
‡ Two years only.
| For new conditions of these duties in 1881, see page 167.
The Marine Insurance Duty.
It is surely unnecessary to do more than indicate the self-evident absurdity of a financial system that has abolished taxes on fire insurance, but leaves them still to be exacted upon the insurers of property and goods by sea. A stamp of trifling amount, like that on Life Policies (for the rate of which see page 167), would answer all necessary purposes of Registration.
The Duty on Bills and Notes.
These being taxes on persons who need to borrow money are unjust and oppressive. Every time the bill or promissory note is renewed the tax is relevied, and it thus, in thousands of cases, becomes more than trebled and quadrupled in its incidence. It is a petty system to single out in this way one class of the people and make money for the State out of their exigencies. The mercantile and trading community of the country are heavily enough handicapped by Customs and Excise, and by the exactions of the Probate Law and of Schedule D, without the Exchequer nibbling at their pockets for this £777,000 a year for bill-stamps. About nine and a half millions in number of these bills pay Stamp Duty yearly, but the quarterly amount being almost exactly one-fourth, shows how regular are the renewals and how frequent the re-taxation of each person.
In 1853, this duty, hitherto of variable amounts, and on a graduated scale, was reduced to a uniform penny rate on all receipts over £2 in amount, the result being a great increase in the produce to the revenue. In 1852 it realized £154,696; in 1872, £648,843; in 1886, £967,260.