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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/55

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

provinces of America—a system filtered down through Spanish traditions from the times when the imposition of taxes and the regulation of local trade were regarded by cities and communities in the light of an affirmation of their right to self-government, and as a barrier against feudal interference and tyranny; and when the idea of protecting industry through like devices was not limited as now to international commerce, but was made applicable to the commercial intercourse of cities and communities of the same country, and even to separate trades or "guilds" of the same city? Whether such speculations have any warrant in fact or not, it is at least certain that we have in the Mexico of today a perfect example of what was common in Europe in the middle ages; namely, of protection to separate interests (through taxation) carried out to its fullest and logical extent, and also of its commercial and industrial consequences.

So much for the tariff system of Mexico and its adjuncts. The "excise" or "internal revenue" system of the country is no less extraordinary. It is essentially a tax on sales, collected in great part through the agency of stamps, and is a repetition of the old "alcalvala" tax of Spain, even to the extent of retaining its name slightly modified from alca vala to "alca bala"; and which Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, describes as one of the worst forms of taxation that could be inflicted upon a country, and as largely responsible for the decay of Spanish manufactures and agriculture. Thus a Federal statute of Mexico, enacted in 1885, imposed a tax of "one half of one per cent upon the value in excess of twenty dollars of transactions of buying or selling of every kind of merchandise, whether at wholesale or retail, in whatever place throughout the whole republic." Also, one half of one per cent "on all sales and resales of country or city property; upon all exchanges of movable or immovable property; on mortgages, transfers, or gifts, collateral or bequeathed inheritances; on bonds, rents of farms, when the rent exceeds two thousand dollars annually; and on all contracts with the Federal, State, or municipal governments." Every inhabitant of the republic who sells goods to the value of over twenty dollars must give to the buyer "an invoice, note, or other document accrediting the purchase," and affix to the same, and cancel, a stamp corresponding to the value of the sale. Sales at retail are exempt from this tax; and retail sales are defined to be "sales made with a single buyer, whose value does not exceed twenty dollars. The reunion, in a single invoice, of various parcels, one of which does not amount to twenty dollars, but which in the aggregate exceed that quantity," remains subject to the tax. Retail sales in the public markets, or by ambulatory sellers, or licensed establishments whose capital does not exceed three hundred dollars, are also exempt.