HC Deb 24 June 1889 vol 337 cc540-1
MR. COBB (Warwickshire, S E., Rugby)

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he his aware that in some districts the names of the additional Commissioners of Income Tax (appointed by the General Commissioners under the 5 and 6 Vic., c. 35) are unknown to the income tax payers in the district, although the returns of income of such taxpayers are laid before the additional Commissioners, and they advise the Surveyor of Taxes as to making surcharges; whether he is aware that in some districts the additional Commissioners are actually engaged in trade in the district, and thus have before them the income tax returns of their competitors in trade, without such competitors' knowledge; whether he is aware (as an instance) that, in Rugby, two out of the three additional Commissioners are Mr. Thomas Beasley, who is now carrying an the trade of a butcher, and Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, who is now carrying on the trade of a chemist, and that hardly any of their neighbours or competitors in trade, who are income tax payers at Rugby, are aware, or have any means of knowing, that their income tax returns come before these Commissioners, or that any additional Commissioners have been appointed by the General Commissioners; whether, looking to the fact that the names of the General Commissioners, the Assessors, and the Surveyor of Taxes are all known to the taxpayers, there is any advantage to the public service in a system which, in some cases, practically keeps secret the names of the additional Commissioners, and the fact of their appointment; and, whether he will take any steps to cause the names of all additional Commissioners to be made public, and to prevent, in the future, the appointment, as Commissioners, of those who are competing in trade with other taxpayers?


The income tax assessments under Schedule D are made by the additional Commissioners, appointed by the general Commissioners for this purpose or selected by the general Commissioners from their own body. The general Commissioners are appointed by the Land Tax Commissioners for the county in which they act, and the Board of Inland Revenue and the Government have nothing whatever to do with their selection. The Legislature seems purposely to have taken the matter out of the hands of the Government, and to have placed it in the hands of local people and men of business. If this involves the inconvenience to which the question of the hon. Member is directed, it was considered on the other hand to be a protection against any pressure on the part of Government officials. It is not the fact that Income Tax Commissioners advise the Surveyor of Taxes as to making surcharges. With regard to the names of the additional Commissioners not being known to the taxpayers, there is nothing in the Income Tax Acts requiring them to be published, and I have no authority in the matter. All persons liable to assessment under Schedule D may, if they think fit, elect to be assessed by the Special Commissioners in London, in which case their returns and assessments are withdrawn from the jurisdiction and knowledge of the local Commissioners.