HC Deb 08 July 1896 vol 42 cc1029-32

Income tax for the year beginning of sixth day of April, one thousand eight hundred and ninety-six, shall be charged at the rate of eightpence.

MR. WHITTAKER moved to leave out the word "eightpence," and to insert in- stead thereof the words "seven pence halfpenny." The hon. Gentleman explained that his object in moving the reduction was not to reduce the amount of revenue which the Chancellor of the Exchequer would receive, but to suggest to him that there was a method of levying the tax by which 7½d. would then produce as much as 8d. did under the present arrangement, while it would be much more equitable than the existing system. He suggested, as a matter of general principle, that all payers of Income Tax earning the same rate of income should pay the same Income Tax. His grievance was that agriculturists, and those who had nursery and market gardens, did not pay on their actual income. He did not wish them to pay on profits they did not make, but when they did make profits they ought to pay at the same rate as anyone else who made profits in any other industry. The arrangement under which farmers were let off the greater part of the Income Tax, while others had to pay who were making the same income, made a difference of more than £1,000,000 to the revenue, which meant that other members of the community had to pay an extra Income Tax of one halfpenny in the pound in order that the farmers might be so largely relieved of the Income Tax. That was most unjust and inequitable. At the present time the farmer was the most lightly-taxed individual in this country, so far as the Income Tax was concerned. The total rental value of the land in the United Kingdom was £56,000,000, but the persons who occupied the land and tilled the soil only paid in Income Tax £190,000 a year. If they were assessed at the same rates as others they would pay £1,500,000, and 7½d. in the pound would make them pay £1,250,000 a year, and would, therefore, produce more than the £1,000,000 which would be required to enable the Income Tax to be reduced to 7½d. That meant that other people were paying the £1,000,000 a year in order that the farmer might escape a payment to which he would be liable did he make the same income out of any other industry. The farmer was assessed under Schedule B at one-third of his rent, or of his actual profits, whichever might be the least. That, of itself, was a most inequitable method. The result was that if his rent or actual profit was £480 a year, he escaped the payment of the Income Tax altogether, because being assessed at only one-third of that sum gave £160, which brought him within the limit of exemption. If a trader or anyone else had an income of £480 a year he was only entitled——


I rise, Sir, to a point of order. The hon. Member proposes to move a reduction of the Income Tax from 8d. to 7½d., yet, on a matter which he is quite entitled to raise, he is raising another issue altogether, namely, that the farmers, on Schedule B, are not taxed as much as they ought to be. He was ruled out of order in the Amendments he placed on the Paper upon that subject, and I venture to submit that he is really out of order in raising it now.


The hon. Member is entitled to move to reduce the Income Tax from 8d. to 7½d., or to strike the whole of Clause 19 out, but I do not think he is entitled to go into the question of Schedule B. That is specially dealt with in the next clause, and if he deals with it in the present clause it is obvious that the same matter may be dealt with twice over, which would be quite contrary to the rule governing the proceedings in Committee.


I respectfully submit I cannot raise it on the next clause, as you have ruled my Amendments out of order. I was giving a reason now why the reduction should be made.


If the Amendments are out of order on Clause 20, which deals with Schedule B., it is obvious they would be equally out of order on Clause 19 which does not. The hon. Member is entitled to move to reduce the 8d. to any other sum, but he cannot raise the question of how this particular deficit is to be met, which would be caused, supposing his Amendment were to be carried.


I am afraid if I am out of order in discussing the reasons why I wish it to be one halfpenny less, I cannot continue my remarks on this head, therefore I content myself by simply moving the Amendment.


I am afraid I have only to say, in answer to the Amendment, that I cannot spare the money.

Question put, "That the word 'eight pence' stand part of the clause."

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 222; Noes, 58.—(Division List, No. 321.)

Clause 20,—