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As I observed some time since, they may not marry, or if they do, they may marry some one to whom their income is important: I therefore think them entitled to the concession; but still I do not think that the claim is as strong as the claim of industrial incomes; and if the concession could only be obtained upon industrial incomes, it would not be sacrificing people whose claim is greater to people whose claim is less; that is the sole object with which I alluded to the subject.
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Yes; life incomes in the first class, life incomes from property: for I think that the Chairman’s second class, taking it as a class, has a much stronger claim than almost any in the first class have; and that is a great object to exempt the second class, even if it were not possible to do justice to any in the first class. The only case that I would positively take out of the first class is pensions. I do not see any reasonable ground for refusing them exemption. There is another class, a class essentially professional, which, because the income is derived from land, the Chairman includes in his first class; it is the case of clergymen, holders of tithe rent-charge, or glebe with cure of souls. These I think in principle ought to be in the second class. It is quite true, however, that the Chairman’s allowance of 100 a year untaxed to each of them, does on the average satisfy the claim of the entire class, but it operates very unequally in individual cases.
Because the reasons for exemption are stronger in the other two cases than they are in that. The only reason that could be urged for exemption in the case of the shareholder, is the slight shade of precariousness that there is about his income, which is not usually great in those cases. Where the shareholder is poor, the property is usually in the funds, or in some comparatively secure and steady investment, and where he is not poor, it will generally be so divided that the risks will be an insurance against one another; therefore I think the claim is at its lowest point in the case of the shareholder in a company; it is at the lowest point that can be, where there is any precariousness at all. But in the other two cases, not merely the interest or profit on capital, but also the reward of industry and talent forms part of the income; and this element of the income, besides being more precarious, terminates with the life of the person.
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Even putting compulsion out of the question, such fixity of relations as Mr. Newman aims at, is inconsistent with a rapidly progressive state of society and life. By his theory on this subject, he is an apostle of Conservatism. His ideal could only be realised in an age of standing still. The spirit of progress, the best and only hope of the world, is incompatible with shutting the door, first here, then there, against change for the better. Even physical progress, improvement in the material arts of life, is not consistent with his system. If customers were always to adhere to the same dealer as long as they found him honest, it would doubtless be an encouragement to honesty, but a great discouragement to improvement. To whom could the producer or dealer who supplied better goods at lower prices, look for his remuneration? Fixed personal relations, as a general rule, can only belong to a fixed state of society. Until Mr. Newman or somebody else can point out any existing state of society which it is desirable to have stereotyped for perpetual use, we must regard as an evil, all restraint put upon the spirit which never yet since society existed has been in excess—that which bids us “try all things” as the only means by which with knowledge and assurance we can “hold fast to that which is good.”
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It seems to me to be the chief defect of the present tax, that it does not make any distinction between permanent and temporary incomes, or between precarious and certain incomes. I should not however be inclined to make so great a distinction in either of those cases as is contended for by many. The most popular of the plans for remedying the inequality or injustice of the present tax in making no distinction between permanent and temporary incomes, is the plan of capitalizing, as it is called, the income, and taxing each income at what would be its selling value at the moment when the tax is levied. Now this appears to me to involve an arithmetical fallacy. Suppose, for instance, there were two incomes, each of 1,000 a year, the one a permanent income, and the other an income for 10 years, or what is equivalent, a life income, the life being supposed to be worth 10 years’ purchase. Supposing that the permanent income would sell for 20 years’ purchase, it would be double the value of the other, and, according to the maxim of taxing all persons in proportion to their means without consideration of anything else, all would admit that an income which is worth only half as much as another income, should pay only half as much. Under cover, however, of this principle, it is contended that an income of 1,000 a year which is to last for only 10 years, should be considered as equivalent to an income of 500 a year to last for ever, and should be taxed at only the same rate at which a perpetual annuity of 500 would be taxed. This appears to me to be fallacious: because, after converting an income of 1,000 a year for 10 years into an equivalent value in perpetuity, that is to say, into 500 a year in perpetuity, you do not tax it in perpetuity, which you would do if it were really a permanent income of that value, but you tax it only for 10 years. The fallacy lies in capitalizing the income without at the same time capitalizing the tax. It appears to me that you ought to do both, or neither. The point might be illustrated in this way. Supposing the tax were to be paid only once, and assuming, as before, that a perpetual income is worth 20 years’ purchase, it would be fair to take from a perpetual income of 1,000 a year exactly twice as much as you take from an income of 1,000 a year for 10 years; that is to say, an income of 1,000 in perpetuity being worth 20,000 an income of 1,000 a year for life at 10 years’ purchase, would be worth only 10,000 and therefore ought to pay half as much as the other. Now supposing the tax were levied once for all, and that it were a tax of five per cent., the one income would pay 1,000 once, and the other income would pay 500 once, because the one would be worth 20,000 and the other only 10,000 that everybody would allow to be fair, the one being half the selling value of the other. As that would be fair if the tax was to be levied only once, I apprehend that it would be fair in whatever mode the tax was levied; the one ought to pay what is equivalent to 1,000 and the other to pay what is equivalent to 500 But it is proposed that an income of 1,000 a year for 10 years only, should be taxed as if it were an income of 500 a year, that it should be taxed therefore only 25 a year, and should pay that for only 10 years. So that where the perpetual income pays a perpetual tax equal in value to 1,000 the terminable income pays a terminable tax equivalent only to 250 and consequently pays a fourth, instead of a half, what the other pays. This, I conceive, is not consistent with the principle of paying in proportion to means, which is the principle of the tax as at present levied. At the same time, I do not consider that to be the right principle of taxation. I do not conceive that the tax should be in proportion to the means only, but that it should take into consideration the means, and also the wants. I would therefore tax temporary or precarious incomes at a lower scale than permanent or certain incomes, not because of their having a less selling value, but because the possessors of those incomes have one want, which those who possess permanent incomes have not; they are liable to be called upon in most cases to save something out of that income to provide for their own future years, or to provide for others who are dependent upon them; while those who possess permanent incomes can spend the whole, and still leave the property to their descendants or others. It is for this reason that I would tax a temporary income at a lower rate than a permanent income.