Excise, a term employed to designate a particular form of taxation. Excise taxes or duties are distinguished from customs in being such as are imposed upon domestic commodities, chiefly manufactures, such as glass, paper, spirits, etc, while customs are duties levied upon merchandise imported or exported. Both kinds are included under the common term imposts. Excise duties were first imposed in Great Britain by the long parliament in 1643, but a number of articles of foreign production were included in the act, as tobacco, wine, sugar, etc, which were charged with a duty in the hands of the retailer in addition to what had been paid on importation. Since that time they have been regularly continued, but with modifications from time to time as to the articles subject to the duty and the rate of charge. The articles of foreign growth and manufacture are now transferred to the department of customs. At the present time excise duties are nearly all collected on fermented and distilled liquors and chiccory, though license duties are also classed with the excise taxes.
For the year ending March 31, 1872, the excise duties collected in the United Kingdom amounted to £23,386,064, of which £6,670,955 were collected on malt, £12,274,-596 on spirits, and £3,781,979 for licenses.-Excise duties have not been generally levied in the United States, but the national government has relied upon customs as its principal source of revenue. An excise duty on the manufacture of spirits during Washington's administration led to what was called the whiskey insurrection in Pennsylvania, which was soon suppressed, but the tax was not continued. Others were imposed in 1813, but repealed in 1817. After the breaking out of the civil war in 1861 it became necessary to resort to every available source of income, and an elaborate system of excise duties was established, designed in some form to reach nearly every species of manufacture. The most of these duties have successively been abolished, but those on spirits and tobacco are retained. For the purposes of comparison with the excise duties collected in Great Britain in 1872, the following figures are given.
The duties collected on the manufacture and sale of distilled spirits for the year ending June 30, 1872, were $49,475,516 36; on fermented liquors, $8,009,- | 969 72; on tobacco, $18,674,569 26.-The relative advantage of excise duties and customs has been much debated. The latter are evaded to a large extent by smugglers, but the excise duties are also evaded, particularly in respect to spirits. This was strikingly illustrated in the United States, where it was found that a tax of $2 a gallon on the manufacture of whiskey produced less revenue than one of 50 cents. Excise duties are also objected to on the same ground with an income tax, namely, that they expose the manufacturer's private operations. Another objection that has tended to make them more obnoxious than any other is the arbitrary manner of enforcing them, which is felt to be an interference with private liberty and independence, which the common law has sedulously protected. It is supposed that in this matter of collecting its revenue the government considers itself entitled to dispense with all the ordinary protections to individual right and liberty, and to provide the most unjust and arbitrary proceedings at discretion.
This was illustrated in a very remarkable manner in the recent case of Henderson, in which it was held by the majority of the United States supreme court that a bona fide purchaser of liquors stored in a government warehouse, who had paid in full all dues, might afterward have the liquors seized in his hands and forfeited to the government because a former owner had at one time had a design to evade payment of the duties upon them; a purpose of which the purchaser was wholly ignorant. (14 Wallace's Reports, 44, 64.)