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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/315

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

income tax as it was in force in England. To get direct taxation into good working order, even after a suitable model, would have been a work of time and care, in the absence of any record of the names and resources of householders. But what, except failure, could attend a sudden call on relatively ignorant and unlettered millions, at short notice, to assess themselves, or prove right of exemption, to send in elaborate returns and calculations, and to understand and watch their own interests under the system of notices, surcharges, claims, abatements, installments, penalties, and what not, consequent thereon? Necessarily there followed a long train of evils. An army of tax assessors and collectors temporarily engaged could not be pure. They were aided by an army of informers, actuated by direct gain or private animosity. Frauds in assessment and collection went hand in hand with extortion in return for real or supposed exemption. Inquisition into private affairs, fabrication of false accounts where true ones did not exist or were inconvenient, acceptance of false returns, rejection of honest ones, unequal treatment of the similarly circumstanced—all these more or less prevailed. The tax reached numbers not really liable, for zemindars illegally recovered it from tenants and masters from servants, while underlings enriched themselves by the threat of a summons.

"Subsequent acts in 1862, while affording relief in some respects, practically stereotyped many inequalities and heartburnings. In later years, the system of assessment by broad classes was an improvement on the earlier complications, but the advance of local officers toward equitable assessment was perpetually being canceled by the alterations in rate and liability, which I next notice.

"Renewed direct taxation in British India thus made a false start, from which it has never recovered. Possibly, with time and care, a great improvement might have been effected, if the law had remained unaltered. But, unluckily, with its too English form came the idea that the tax was to be, as in England, a convenient means of rectifying budget inequalities, and a great reserve in every financial or national emergency. In consequence of this idea, incomes between Rs. 200 and Rs. 500, which had been taxed at two per cent in 1860 were exempted in 1862, the four-percent rate was reduced to three per cent in 1863, and the whole tax was dropped in 1865. In 1867 it reappeared in the modified form of a license tax, at the rate of only two per cent at most, but reaching down again to incomes of Rs. 200. In 1868 it became a certificate tax at rates a fifth lower, and again commencing with a Rs. 500 limit. In 1869 it became once more a full-blown income tax at one per cent on all incomes and profits of Rs. 500 and upward. In the middle of the same year it was suddenly nearly