This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
The English system of taxation can be very briefly treated here, because the principal component parts will be discussed in detail in later chapters. What is necessary here is to give an outline of the system as a whole. The greatest change in the British scheme of taxation within this century was the elimination of the protective principle from the customs duties, — and indirectly from the excises also,— brought about in the period from 1840-1850, by the abolition of the corn laws and the agitation leading thereto. The consequent simplification of both the import duties and the excises rendered it possible to manage them simply as a source of revenue with a view to obtaining relatively larger sums. The customs duties, the entire tariff of which now contains only 40 rates, and the somewhat more numerous excises and stamp duties, pay one-half the total annual revenue. The property and income tax, which was restored in 1842 and has since been the variable or elastic element in the system, will also receive special attention in another chapter. Inasmuch as this famous property and income tax is a system, in itself, of five taxes which are calculated to fall upon the chief sources of wealth, it complies, in a way, with the requirements of universality. Its rate is digressive, so that it attempts to comply with the requirements of justice. It may be looked upon as the complete system of direct taxation. Outside of the system there are two remnants of older taxes which are anomalies and destroy, somewhat, the logic of the system. This lack of any logical reason for retaining them does not necessarily form any good reason for abolishing them. They give rise to no serious complaint, they are old and have been in the main capitalised, so that they form no real burden at present. They are the land tax of the eighteenth century, which is now a redeemable rent charge, and the house duty. This latter developed out of the hearth tax of 1662. In 1688 it had been replaced by a window tax. In 1778 a tax on the annual rental was added to the window tax, and finally after 1851 this tax on the rental value was left to stand alone.
There is still another tax which supplements the property and income tax, and that is the inheritance tax. The most recent changes in these inheritance taxes, — " death duties," — which have existed in England since 1694, will receive attention under another heading. The important thing to note in this connection is that these taxes have introduced the principle of progression very extensively into the tax system of England.
The English system as it now stands, consists (1) of the customs and excise duties, (2) of the so-called property and income tax, a digressive tax upon five kinds of income, (3) two older taxes, the land tax and the house tax, (4) a graduated inheritance tax.
The different authorities that have had the power to levy local rates in England are very numerous. The whole system is very complex. The different rates, each going by the name of the authority that levies it, or the purpose for which it is collected, are mostly upon the same base, namely, the annual rental of the various tenements. They are generally levied upon occupiers. In the case of tenements of less than £10 annual value, the difficulty of collecting from the occupier is so great that the plan of making the landlord advance the tax has been adopted. He then shifts it to the occupier. The recent reforms of county and municipal government in England have resulted in a simplification of local rates.