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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 29

Indirect Taxation

Indirect Taxation.

The direct collectors are thus very few; the direct payers are not many. This is, therefore, called indirect taxation. It is a favourite method with all Governments, because the revenue is thus so easily and quietly collected. It is supported by the wealthy generally, because its action can be made such as to collect the greater portion from the poorer people, without bringing the fact very closely or irritatingly under their notice. It is also supported by some producers, because its action can be so managed as to secure a higher price for local produce—whether it be food, clothing, or any other article—than it would fetch if the same thing could be imported from other countries, at a lower price, free of duty. But it is a method really very oppressive to the man of small means. The merchant or importer charges the cost price and duty to the retailer, with his own profit on both added; and the retailer charges to his customers, cost price, duty, the merchant's profit on both, and his own profit on all three.

Thus, if flour has been, during the year 1876, valued for duty at an average price of £13 10s., the duty is per 100 lbs. or £1 per ton, is 7.4 per cent, on the value. Supposing the merchant and retailer each to charge only 10 per cent, in the way above described, the consumer would have to pay 9 per cent, on the cost price, more than if there were no duty. Out of every 130d., about 21d. worth is the profit of the two dealers, and 9d. the duty and its consequences. The eater pays 130 instead of 121 farthings, or 8d. for a loaf instead of 7½d. But who ever makes this calculation for himself? Of course all the blame is laid on the baker. The tax on food is really the chief cause of its dearness.