This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
In England1 we find in Anglo-Saxon times three principal taxes : (1) The ship-geld, a tax imposed on each shire, in proportion to the number of hundreds it contained, for naval purposes. (2) The tribute-like " Danegeld " was levied after 991 at so much a hide (piece of land) and, after the cessation of the original cause, was collected by the kings as private revenue. (3) The "fumage," or tax of smoke farthings, a hearth tax. This seems to have been a traditional form of tax with the Saxons.
In Norman times, the feudal character of the gov-1 See Dowell, History of Taxation and Taxes in England. Government was such that it obtained revenues from the demesne, from feudal dues, and from the royal prerogatives so great that no real taxes exist. The Danegeld was levied by the Conqueror as an annual tax, but disappeared after 1163.
With the reign of Henry II. came a more ordered and regular system of taxation. This began with the well-known commutation of the military obligations of tenants. It was due to the continental position of the Angevin kings. The distance at which war was waged and the length of service demanded rendered the military obligations particularly burdensome, and tenants were anxious to commute them. An army of mercenaries, too, suited the king better, as easier to control than the feudal army. Hence arose the commutation of the duty to foreign service into a money payment of two marks, £1 6s. 8d.., on each fee of .£20, known as the "scutage." Henry II. collected three such scutages, and this tax did not fall into disuse until after 1322. It was practically a land tax, levied each time for a special purpose. The tallage in England was the tax that, was collected from the tenants on the royal demesne on occasions of unusual expense. Those who paid the hidage or Danegeld were generally exempt. Cities and towns not exempt in this way paid the auxilium or aid. The tenants were liable for these taxes up to one-tenth of their goods. In the city of London the tallage was treated as a "benevolence." It was superseded after Edward III. by the general taxes on movables.
The taxes on movables began with the " Saladin tithe " in 1188. It was one-tenth of rent and movables paid by all except crusaders. Out of this insignificant beginning grew a system of taxes on movables which finally included all the taxes so far mentioned. Richard I. levied a tax on all ploughed land in 1194, known as the "carucage," from the area upon which it was levied, namely, the amount of land that could be covered by one plough (caruca) in a season. After 1224, this was merged in the tax on movables.
The tax on rents and movables, which began, as we saw, with the Saladin tithe, was continued from 1189 to 1334. This was a grant of one-thirteenths and teenth in 1207, one-fifteenth in 1225, one-fortieth in 1232, one-thirtieth in 1237, one-fifteenth in 1275. Up to 1283, the method of obtaining the grant was by separate negotiations with each section of the country. But after that date, general grants were made by Parliament and other taxes were discontinued.
Besides these direct taxes, the crown had the privilege of taking " customary" tolls upon merchandise imported or exported. Hence our modern term, "customs duties." These tolls were of the character of licenses and protection money. Their early history is obscure. Before the Magna Charta they had become so fixed and regular as to call forth the well-known clause of that historical document : " Let all merchants have safety and security to go out of England, to come into England, and to remain in and go about through England, as well by land as by water, for the purpose of buying and selling, without the payment of any evil or unjust tolls, on the payment of the ancient and just customs" (sine omnibus malis toltis, per antiquas et rectas consuetudines). In 1275 these "ancient customs," slightly raised, were granted Edward I. by Parliament. The chief duties were on wine imported and wool exported and a poundage on all other goods imported or exported. From 1334 to 1453 there are a number of changes to note. The fifteenths and tenths were apportioned among the communities, cities, and boroughs, the townships and the demesne tenants, in 1334, and the assessment then maderemained the basis of taxation. Thetax thus became a fixed charge. It varied in rate from one-half a fifteenth and tenth, to two fifteenths and tenths, as the need for revenues might change. Sometimes no such grant was made. In 1377 Parliament granted to the king a tax of " four pence, to be taken from the goods of each person in the kingdom, men and women, over the age of fourteen years, except only real beggars." This was known as the "tallage of groats." Subsequently a classified poll tax wasemployed, in which an attempt was made, by the arrangement of the payers into classes and a gradation of the rates, to get a larger return by taking advantage of the greater wealth of certain classes. In 1379 this yielded £25,000, which was only slightly more than the previous tallage of groats. The clergy were included in both these taxes. After the peasant revolt return was made to the fifteenths and tenths. From 1382 the landowners take the whole burden of the old "fifteenth and tenth." In 1435 this was supplemented by a graduated tax on income from lands, rents, and annuities, and offices of freehold. In the reign of Edward III. the customs yielded large returns. They consisted as before of tunnage on wine, customs on wool and leather, and poundage on all other merchandise. The popularity of Edward IV. enabled him to add to his other sources of revenue the "benevolences," demands on the rich for special contributions. Throughout the history of taxation in England the grant of monopolies of new industries was made a source of income to the government. The multiplication of these under Elizabeth did not yield much revenue, although it gave rise to much discontent.
There is little in the varied application of these taxes that is important as showing the line of development until the seventeenth century. At that time they proved unequal to the task of meeting the growing needs of the treasury. The chief auxiliary lay in the extension of the indirect consumption taxes. The year 1692 (revision, 1697) saw the establishment of a permanent land tax. This grew out of the apportionment ofthe " fifteenths and tenths." It became a fixed charge on land, a real burden, not having, as time went on, any definite relation to the income from land. In 1798 Pitt made this redeemable, a privilege which has been taken advantage of to the extent of removing half the charge from the lands. In its operation it is rather a rent than a tax.
The wars of the period of the French Revolution and the consequent need of revenue introduced the general income tax (1798, 1802, 1803,1806). This tax was no departure in principle from the older taxes, although a departure in method. It has been well characterised as a combination of several taxes into a system which has for its aim the proportional taxation of all incomes, with the exemption of a certain fixed sum (digressive). •The form which it took in 1803 is the best to study. Two separate acts were passed, the one taxing all incomes from holdings of real estate, rents, and public salaries at the source ; that is, so far as possible the tax was deducted before the revenues passed into the hands of the recipient. The second taxed industrial earnings and interest on capital on the basis of a declaration by the tax-payer. The tax began with an income of £60 (later £50), and this amount could be deducted from all incomes below £150 ; after that the full rate was paid. Each person was required to declare his whole income and could claim reimbursement for any tax stopped at the source if he could show that his total income was below the minimum. This tax, set aside in 1816, was restored in 1842, as a substitute for the indirect taxes, removed in consequence of the demand for commercial freedom. The rate is changed from time to time as the needs of the government change.