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Law Bookseller and Publisher ;
HODGES AND SMITH, GRAFTON STREET, DUBLIN.
NEARLY fifteen years have now elapsed since the Writer first endeavoured to direct public attention to the anomalous condition of the laws relating to the collection and assessment of the Land Tax; and had his suggestions been adopted, for an equalization of this tax, an increase to the revenue of at least fifty millions sterling would ere this have been secured, without the slightest inconvenient pressure.
The Writer's Pamphlet containing his Suggestions having gone through three editions, it is fair to conclude that it has obtained some attention, and he feels justified therefore in continuing his exertions to accomplish an object which he has so long considered to be of the first importance to the community.
The amount of Land Tax unredeemed and annually collected is about £1,200,000; and this is so unequally assessed, that while in some parts of the country the parties assessed are paying more than 3s. in the pound, in other places the rate collected is only a few pence, and in others less than a farthing in the pound. Thus in the Borough of Marylebone and in the Borough of Liverpool the tax is less than a farthing in the pound, while in the parish of St. Andrew, Holborn, it is ls. 10d., in some parts of the city of Westminster more than 2s., and in several places in the City of London more than 3s. in the pound.
The cause of this inequality is readily explained. In the year 1798 Mr. Pitt, the then prime minister, being desirous, for the purposes of public credit, of withdrawing a large amount of stock from the public funds, adopted the expedient of enabling parties to redeem and purchase Land Tax, by which it was expected that about eighty millions of stock would be absorbed. To accomplish this object it was necessary, in the first place, so to adjust the assessment of the tax that the greatest facilities should be afforded to parties desirous of redeeming, and, accordingly, in the year 1798, the Act of 38 Geo. 3, c. 5, was passed, by which the sum of £,1989,673 was directed to be raised for Land Tax in England and Wales in the proportions fixed upon the several counties and other places specified in the Act; and in order to collect the specified sums the commissioners were directed to appoint assessors for the parishes and places in the several divisions within each county, who were to settle the quota to be contributed by such parishes and places.
The Act directs that the tax should be raised with as much equality and indifference as possible; but as a foundation for this impartiality, and, as
if in mockery of the provision, the commissioners and assessors were directed to be governed in their assessments by those made under the act passed for the collection of Land Tax in the reign of William and Mary, (1692). So readily did the parties appointed to carry the act into execution avail themselves of the latitude thus given, and so regardless were they of equality and indifference in their assessments, that, with comparatively few exceptions, the quota fixed upon the several parishes and places under the Act of 1798 were precisely the same as those levied in the reign of William and Mary. A striking example of this mode of assessment is furnished by the Borough of Liverpool, the Land Tax for which, in the reign of William and Mary, including the rate levied in respect of offices and pensions, and personal estate, was £802 : 8s. 10d., of which £633 : 15s. was raised for the duties on offices, &c.; and, the latter duties having been repealed, the amount now assessed upon this borough, including the amount redeemed, is £168 : 13s. 10d. Manchester, Preston, Bath, Bristol, Leeds and other large towns present similar anomalies.
The ground having been thus prepared by a pretended revision and general settlement of the assessments, the next step was to prepare for the redemption, and for this purpose the Act of 38 Geo. 3, c. 60, was passed, by which the Land Tax, as then collected, was declared perpetual, subject to redemption. In proposing the resolu