§ Mr. Francis
did not mean to object to the 110 Speaker's leaving the chair, but he thought it incumbent upon him to state his opinion of the principle of the bill. His objections to it were fundamental, and not to be done away. But the knew the difficulties under which the Ministry laboured, and his object was only to clear himself from the charge of inconsistency, for he was not one of those Who held one opinion while on one side of the house and another when on another side. His opinion was the same as before, with this addition, that his objections to it had been rendered more powerful by the augmentation which had taken place in it. He objected to it as being misnamed, and called a Property Tax, when in fact it was an Income Tax, and, as such, unjust and unequal, and in some cases cruel and oppressive. Having thus stated his objections to the principle, he would, when it came into the committee, give his assistance to render it in its details as unexceptionable as possible. He hoped it would not escape the attention of the house that we were now come to times of difficulty and necessity. The noble lord had found a difficulty in carrying his first tax, and he would feel it more and more in future. It was not that he wished to oppose him, but he really trusted that the house would consider that we were come to the life-blood of the country in taxation, and in proportion as our difficulties increased we ought to attend to other resources. These were parsimony and a rigorous levy of the taxes at present in force. Great frauds were committed in many branches of the revenue departments, especially in the Customs, which might be prevented by a vigilant ministry. Ministers had no right to demand more taxes while waste was permitted, and abuses remained uncorrected. It was an old saying, and a wise one, that "parsimony was the best of all the sources of public revenue." He hoped this would be atttended to.
§ Lord H. Petty
admitted the justice of many of these remarks, but the greater the difficulties of the country were, the more necessity did he find for this tax. As to economy, he assured the house, that it was always in his view, and he had frequently urged the necessity of adhering to it.
Mr. W. Smith
said, he was convinced that His majesty's ministers were fully impressed with the necessty of a strict economy. He agreed with his hon. friend on the bench below (Mr. Francis) in most of his observations, nor was it necessary for him to add a word to what he had before said on this tax. But he rather differed front the 111 honourable gentleman as to the rigorous collection of the taxes. An impartial collection ought undoubtedly, to be made, but the fortiter in modo, as well as in re, would render the taxes ten times more oppressive than at present. He believed however, that the honourable gentleman meant the same thing by the word rigour, which he did by the word impartial.
§ Mr. Francis
explained that by the word "rigorous,' he did not mean a ruinous, but an exact collection. He was do friend to oppression or cruelty, but did wish to trust government with the discretion in matters of forbearance.
§ Mr. Fuller
complained that the tax was on property, not on income. He complained of the effect of it on gentlemen of landed property, who were not to be allowed for sums expended on repairs, and were also to be charged for the annual increase in the value of woods. He expressed a hope that next year an income tax would be substituted.
§ Mr. Tyrwhit Jones
hoped and trusted that the chancellor of the exchequer would, in the committee, be induced to relax of that firm inflexibility which he had shewn respecting the exemptions, and that the provisions of the former bill on that head would be restored.—The house then resolved itself into a committee.
proposed, that in going through the clauses, the marginal abstracts should be read, and any clause to which any gentlemen wished to propose an amendment might be read at length.
§ Sir Robert Buxton
objected to the first clause. He said he never could perceive the reason why farmers were to be taxed in a different Manner from other classes of the community. Whether the tax were upon property or income, he thought their profits should be estimated in the same way as other traders.
said, the reason of the difference was, that, from the great number of farmers, and the imperfect manner most of them kept their accounts, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to judge of their profits, but by an average. The average was not taken high, when it reckoned for profits only a starch equal to three fourths of the rent paid. There were few farmers indeed who cleared so little.
Mr. Holt Leigh
contended, that in a year when the farmer might have met casualties, or made no profits, it was unfair that he should be rated on an average.
replied, that a productive year Would compensate for that loss, and that When the average was low it was a fair mode of computation.
§ Mr. Fuller
wished to know, why the English farmer should pay 1s. 6d. in the pound on his rent, while the Scotch farmer paid but a shilling.
answered, that the reason was, that the rent of the Scotch farmer was higher, as he was not burdened with tythes, or poor-rates, and therefore, it would not be fair to take the same proportion of those different rents as the amount to be paid to the tax.
Mr. Holt Leigh
observed, that it was very hard that a farmer, who with a capital of three hundred pounds, rented a farm of 2001. per annum, should pay the tax when the same amount of Capital engaged in any trade, would be exempt.
§ Mr. Huskisson
observed, that the hon. gent. seemed to think that the tax affected capital, whereas it was a tax upon profits, and if the profits were made upon 300l. capital in farming, itwas but just they should pay it—The clause was then agreed to.
said, they certainly were, because no property in Ireland was made chargeable.
On the clause requiring persons to return the names of those resident in their houses, or employed by them who were liable to the tax, an objection was raised by
§ Mr. S. Stanhope
objected to this task as impracticable. How was one to judge who was liable? It was a question whether servants on board wages, who would thus receive above 50l. a year, were not liable, while servants who were not on board wages, but who received larger wages otherwise were not liable.—After a long conversation,
promised, that the various bearings of the clause, and the hints thrown out by the gentlemen who spoke on it, should be considered.
wished to know how the owners of the houses were to know who were liable? He had been applied to that morning by three persons from the country, Who had acted as commissioners, and they begged him to obtain them all the information in his power on that head; for they did not understand by the act who were liable. He wished to know, whether clerks in 113 counting-houses and shops, who had only 75l a year, and a family of four or five children each, Were to pay the tax? If they were, the bill would, in his opinion, be oppressive; for men in such Circumstances could not pay the tax. He did not want to oppose the tax, because he knew if we would have war, we must pay the taxes; but he would take the sense of the house in some future stage of the bill, whether persons having four children, and not more than 160l. a year, or only 100l. a year, should pay any tax at all? He was proceeding farther into a view of the general merits of the bill, when he was called to order. It was then agreed that the clause should be reconsidered.
§ Mr. Tyrwhit Jones
gave notice, that he meant to propose a clause imposing a penalty on assessors making vexatious sur-charges.
§ Sir Robert Buxton ,
after making some observations on that part of the bill which allowed a deduction of two per cent. to landlords who paid for the repair of the houses they let out, said, he conceived that this deduction would not cover their expenses, and that it was hard the landed interest should be subject to a higher tax than others. He therefore offered a clause to the consideration of the committee, the purport of which was, that eight per cent. should be deducted from the tax paid by the landlord for all dwelling-houses kept in repair by him, and five per cent. for all farmhouses.
§ Lord Henry Petty
said, that the land tax which formerly existed, came much higher on the land-holder than this; and as landed property was now only taxed in common with all kinds Of income he could never agree to this clause.—A conversation then took place between Mr. S. Stanhope, Mr. T. Jones, Mr. Bastard, and Mr. Wilberforce, who supported the clause, and Mr. Vansittart, and others, who opposed it. The question was at length called for, and the committee divided, when there appeared; For the clause, 51: against it, 129: majority, 78.
On the clause relative to funded property,
§ Mr. Francis
agreeably to his former intimation, proposed that the profits arising from the interest upon exchequer bills, and every other species of floating public debt, should be subjected to the tax, and liable to the same stoppages on the payment of those bills, or the interest thereon at the 114 bank, as upon any other species of government securities. The hon. gent. supported his proposition by many clear and forcible arguments, to shew that property of that species was as fair and as necessary an object of taxation as any species of funded property could be.
§ Lord Henry Petty ,
after fully admitting the fairness of the principle, observed, that the state derived the proposed advantage in another mode, though not in the precise form suggested by the hon. gent.; for a great part of the property in exchequer bills being in the hands of the directors of the bank of England, and of private bankers and reputable merchants, who, it was to be presumed, would make an honest and correct return of their aggregate profits in the year, would, of course, return the interest on those bills as a part of their income. The tax would operate this way in a manner less vexatious, than in the ordinary mode of deducting from the interest upon the bills, as paid off.—It was, however, argued in reply, by Mr. Francis, Mr. W. Smith, and some other members, that the more regular way, and the best security against evasion, would be the mode adopted in the case of all other funds; and that while no disadvantage whatever could arise to the fair holder of floating funds from the proposed arrangement, the noble lord and the house were bound to take the best security in their power on behalf of the public, for the regular payment of the tax, and for the prevention of all attempts to evade it.
§ Lord Henry petty
thought the arguments of those hon. members entitled to every degree of respect and deference, and requested to have time for further consideration, not doubting that he should be induced to adopt them. The subject was therefore postponed to a future stage of the bill.
On the clause for exempting the property of foreigners in the British Funds from the tax,
§ Mr. Francis
saw no reason why this exemption should exist, or why the thirteen millions belonging to foreigners in the British Funds, should not be as heavily taxed as the property of the natives.
Mr. Secretary Fox
was astonished at the opinion expressed by the hon. gent. on this subject. For his part, he should consider an act, such as that which he recommended, a shameful confiscation. The bill under the consideration of the committee was not for taxing foreign, but British subjects. So unjust did he think such a measure, it 115 would involve in it such a flagrant breach of faith, that if the revenue resulting from it were ever so great, he should think it his duty to reject it.
§ Mr. Francis
could not conceive why any man, who placed his property in the British Funds, ought not to pay for the security he received in common with the other creditors of the state.
§ Mr. Alderman Prinsep
observed, that the public faith had never been staked more to foreigners than to any others possessed of funded property, and therefore he did not see why foreigners should be exempt. The contract was never originally made with foreigners; they came into possession of funded property by purchase. As well might it be contended that the property of a foreigner who gained an income by trade in this country, should be exempt from the tax, as that his funded property should be exempt.
Mr. W. Smith
confessed there was much plausibility in the arguments urged against including the property of foreigners in the tax, but was still of opinion, that in justice and equity it might be taxed.—Mr. Ker and sir C. Price, spoke nearly to the same effect; but after Mr. Secretary Fox's explanation, the objections seemed to be given up. Mr. Vansittart immediately rose and moved, that the chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again. The house was then resumed and the committee ordered to sit again to morrow.