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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

48—Personalty under the Land Tax Acts

48—Personalty under the Land Tax Acts.

Altogether it seems very strange that this tax, which was voted every year from the 9th of William III. to the 38th of George III., that is, from 1697 to 1798, a period of a hundred years, should have received the name of "The Land Tax," it being in fact a tax compounded of a general property tax and a special income tax, i.e., a tax first on all personal property except stock on land and a few other trifling articles; 2ndly, on public official incomes, except military and naval; 3rdly, in the event of the specified mm not being made up from the above two sources, a tax on real property was to make up the residue or deficiency. It is quite clear that when the personal property of the kingdom became very considerable, as it did towards the latter part of the above-mentioned period, the sum, of £2,000,000 would be easily raised from that at even the lowest of the above-mentioned pound rates, without having recourse to the land or real property j at all. In all these acts the principal fund for raising the tax is personal property, the real property is only an accessory or subsidiary fund g.

It is not usual certainly to bestow a name from the accessory rather than the principal. There must, one should think, be some reason for the anomaly in this case, but nobody seems to know anyting about it, not event those most likely from their official situations to know. In the select Committee on agricultural distress in 1836, John Wood, Esq., Chairman of the Board of Stamps and Taxes, and William Garnett, Esq., Register of the Land Tax, in the course of their examination, being asked whether some instructions would not he given to the local commissioners as to the species of property on which they were to levy, replied,—"The Commissioners undoubtedly ought to regulate themselves by the Act of Wiliiam and Mary and the subsequent Acts; but we have never been able to discover why their practice deviated therefrom" h; and to the question whether it was ever levied on any other species of property the answer is—

"To a certain degree it was levied on penonal property; and also on offices; but the amount latterly was very inconsiderable. The personal estates have been relieved of tbe taa from 1833. page 196 Mr. Garnett: The produce was under £6,000 a year latterly" i. Sir Robt. Peel, after reciting the 2nd Section of the Statute 4 W. & M. c. 1, asks j, "Is not the effect of that to make what is commonly called personal property of all descriptions, even debts due from foreigners, after deducting bad debts, and after deducting the debts of the party upon whom the claim of land tax was due—all personal property—equally subject with what is called land ? Mr. Wood: I entertain no doubt that was the intention of the Act. (9113) Is there any record of the mode in which the contribution on personal property was originally levied ? None, so tar as we have made discovery. I have looked into the Journals of the House of Commons; I have not concluded the search I had intended to make, but I have not been able to meet with anything on the subject. In the Committees of Supply directions are sometimes found as to the particular mode in which the levies were to be made and treated. (9114) Do you believe that immediately after the passing of that act personal property was made chargeable in the same proportion as land? I think it was made chargeable, but my conjecture is that practical difficulties arose, and the Commissioners were very soon satisfied with laying a rate on the more tangible property, the land. (9115) Do you think that the land not only paid its own contributions, but also for the default of those who had personal property ? It is very possible that it might." And again (9131), "Sir Robt. Peel: The county of Rutland is bound to pay £5,525 by the 38 Geo. III. c. 5; the next act provides That towards raising the sum of money hereby charged in the County of Rutland, any person shall for every £100 of ready money pay the sum of 20s.' Suppose a person in the County of Rutland possessing no land, out receiving a legacy of £10,00 (from some near relative, and therefore liable to contribute towards raising the sum for which the County of Rutland was chargeable, at the rate of 20s. in the £100, would that person, on account of that personal property have paid anything? In practice I believe not. (9132) On what principle was it in respect of the enactment so recent as that of 1797, where the clauses seem to express that the personal property should be ansverable for a certain amount, that that was not carried into effect? The working of the act depends entirely upon the local Commissioners, and we know nothing of the assessments whicl they make, or the description of property they choose to assess; and I suppose it never had been tne custom to assess personal property generally; but that they found that the quota was easily ratsed within the county, and that they did not choose to disturb the assessment which had been before made. Ve find that in most districts there was a small charge made for the duty on personal estates, but it was very small indeed. I think latterly it was only between £5,000 and £6,000 a yea; and an act passed in the year 1833 k, doing away with bat duty on personal estates hereafter. (9133) Mr. Cayley: The same amount has been charged on the Duke of Marlbonugh's pension ? Mr. Wood: All pensions and offices stand on different footing. (9134) Four shillings in the pound has fallei on many lands, has it not? I believe there are instances in th table 1 have given in to-day; there is one case in which the rae is 3s ll£d. (9135) Will you endeavour to reconcile the discrpancy in the wording of the act with the practice; the wordii; of tne act being 20s. in £100, and the practice being in many caes 4s. in the pound ? I believe the 20s. refers to personal estates, nd the 4s. to real estate. The taxes are imposed by two clause, one enumerating personal property liable to 20s. in the £00; the other real property, manors, hereditaments, fisheries, tithe, and so on, and offices and pensions; the 4s. tax applie only to those. But taking the legal interest at 5 per cent., vhich interest is in fact the annual value of £100. the tax of 10s. per £100 is at the rate of 4s. in the pound; ana when the legal interest was 6 per cent., we accordingly find this tax vas 24s. in the £100 on the annual value. (9136) Sir Robert Peel: In the County of Essex and in the County of Devm the land tax presses with particular severity, does it not? In the County of Devon the sum raised by the land tax is £7,875, and in the Countv of Essex £85,563; are those the aims now raised upon those counties respectively ? In the Cointy of Devon £82,583, and in Essex £89.397. (9137) Taking therase of Essex, for instance, by the same act which makes that Cointy liable to the sum of nearly £90,000 it is expressly provided, That to the end the full ana entire sum by this act charged upon the several counties,' &c. So that, notwithstanding that expess enactment made personal property in the County of Essex subject to this contribution, the land in the County of Essex has borne it practically? Mr. Garnett: Not solely, I believe; there was in most counties before the passing of the Repea Act, an assessment, but a small one, on personal estate. (938) If any person possessing land had been called on to coitribute more than his share towards raising this £90,000, might he have appealed against that decision of the Conraissioners, and referred to this Act of Parliament, which itates that personal property shall be rated ? I apprehend he might, if he had discovered that any personal property, liable under the act, was omitted. (9139) Would not a bequest of £100,000, under the act, have been chargeable, and would not the person receiving that have been liable to contribute rateably towards the raising that £90,000 as much as if he had received an estate of £100,000?

I should have thought so under the act, but that has not been so in practice. (9140) Sir James Graham: Can you produce a return showing what proportion of the £90,000 was levied on real estate, and what proportion on personal in the County of Essex? Yes. (9141) Sir Robt. Peel: Will you refer to the County of Middlesex, in which the sum of £107,602 occurs; of the £107,602 that the County of Middlesex raises annually, do you find part to be personal property? A part was charged on personal estate, but the sum that was actually assessed can not be stated, as the assessment probably amounted to a larger sum than is returned into the Exchequer; indeed, we know the fact to be so, that there was a surplus which did not come into the accounts returned into the Exchequer. (9142) Do you think that they affixed a larger sura on the County of Middle-sex, thinking there was a large sum which might have been raised from personal property, and hence on the presumption that personal property would be taxed ? It is very likely the county did contribute a considerable sum from personal estate. A portion of the charge in the County of Middlesex was certainly imposed on personal estate, but I forget the exact proportion. Mr. Wood: There is mixed up with that a considerable charge for offices in the County of Middlesex. (9143) Take the City of London, the charge upon that is £123,399; can you ascertain how that sum was practically raised; was it at all on profits on trade? Not at all on profits of trade, but partly on stock in trade; we have no means at hand of making the distinction, but the charge on offices and personal estate must have amounted to about £36,000 in the City of London."

i Q. 9099.