Many of the direct taxes which are indicated above were gradually given up, while the most important one - a direct tax on land - became a permanent source of revenue. No very definite policy was followed in levying the tax. In order to secure more revenue from larger payments, the privilege was often granted of commuting all future taxes by a single payment. Such a policy, of course, was ill advised, since it used for present purposes what should have been kept for future needs.
Land Assessment. - The land tax continued to be an important part of the fiscal system. In the course of development, assessments began to be made on some definite basis, and the easiest was that of area. The injustice of this soon became apparent, and the gross product was substituted. Gradually, however, the net product was brought to the front, and this still remains the base. Taxes are regarded as a charge upon rentals, since land values are calculated in terms of rents, rather than in terms of selling price. " Twenty years' purchase" is an expression little used in America, yet common in England.
Income Tax. - The wars in which England engaged about the first of the nineteenth century created a demand for more revenue than was being supplied by the existing sources. It was then that the income tax was introduced, a form of taxation which has since occupied an important place in the fiscal machinery. The provisions of some of the early laws appear decidedly modern. A simple degressive scheme was used - a fixed exemption was allowed, and a proportionate rate was levied upon the remainder. With incomes of a certain nature, such as salaries and rents, the tax was to be deducted before the income was turned over to the owner. This method is known as collection at source. With other classes of income, a declaration of the amount of income was to be made, and the tax levied upon this. In cases where there had been a payment at source, while the entire income was less than the granted exemption, the person from whose income the tax had been taken was to be reimbursed by the government.1
Except for a few years, the income tax has continued to be used extensively, and to-day, combined with property taxes, forms the most important part of the revenue system. Inheritance taxes, or " death duties," as they are called in England, also form a part of the fiscal system. Some old land and building taxes are still used, but are relatively unimportant.
Customs Duties. - The attitude taken toward customs duties is an interesting phase in England's fiscal develop-ment. The importance of their early use has already been indicated. About the middle of the nineteenth century, however, after considerable agitation and opposition, the protective principle was largely removed from the tariff laws, and at the same time any protective feature in the remaining duties was offset by the excise duties. The agitation for such action was from the classes who wished to foster an extension of trade and who considered that much of the misery of the lower classes was due to the protective laws.
1A detailed discussion of these methods of levying an income tax, to-gether with a discussion of the present English income tax, is given in Chapter XII. Property Tax Reform.
The agitation for the reduction of duties centered around the repeal of the corn laws. These had been kept in force to secure higher prices for the products of land so it could more ably meet the taxes which were imposed upon it. Since the repeal of these laws, protective duties have had no very important place in England's fiscal policy. Her tariff schedules are primarily for revenue, are composed of few commodities, and are comparatively simple.
Local Taxes. - Contrary to the situation in most European countries, the local taxes of England have always been more or less separated from the influence of the central authorities. The levies are made and collected by local authorities for the use of the local district. The taxes are often levied for particular needs, and are known by the purpose for which the levy is made, as, for example, the poor rates. Land in some form was at first the principal base of assessment, but other bases have developed. Some indirect taxes are also used in securing funds for the different localities.