§ MR. SEARS (Cheltenham)
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer if his attention has been drawn to the following Reports of the Board of Inland Revenue, in each of which they condemn the system of assessing and collecting taxes by means of parochial officers; 2nd Report, 1858, pages 24 and 25; 4th Report, 1860, page 23; 5th Report, 1861, page 19; 6th Report, 1862, pages 18 and 19; 8th Report, 1864, page 21;† See(4) Debates, clviii., 1366.362 and 12th Report, 1869, page 29; if he is aware that a Bill was introduced at the instance of the Board in 1863, and that at page 21 of their 8th Report in 1864 they expressed their regret that it was not passed, and stated that by the employment of Government instead of parochial officers they hoped to effect a saving of probably not less than £50,000 a year, besides relieving the taxpayer of the responsibility to make good the defalcations of parochial collectors; and what steps he proposes to take to give effect to the opinions expressed in favour of reform.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH, Fifeshire, E.)
No steps are contemplated for giving effect to the opinions referred to, of which the most recent appears to have been expressed nearly forty years ago, and which have no application to the existing state of things.
§ MR. SEARS
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will say what was the effect of the transfer of certain duties in 1867 from assessment and collection by parochial officers to Government officers; whether he is aware that the number of dog licences issued increased in ten months from 445,000 to 828,000 (11th Report, Board of Inland Revenue, 1867, p. 14), and in ten years to 1,362,000 (21st Report, 1877, p. 21); and is he aware that in creased revenue would follow the transfer of further duties to Government officials from the more accurate assessment and prompt collection of taxes still in the hands of parochial officers.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The transfer of duties connected with dog licences in 1867 was a transfer from one set of Government officials to another, and not from parochial officers to Government officers. These is no reason to suppose that increased revenue would result from a change in the present system of collection of taxes.
§ MR. SEARS
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the cost of the services of clerks to the local tax commissioners and of parochial assessors and collectors of taxes, which twenty years ago was £295,000 a year, is now £329,000; and whether he 363 will take steps to inquire into this expenditure, and to ascertain the annual saving in public expense in employing Government officers that may be effected, seeing that it was estimated by the Board of Inland Revenue in their 8th Report, 1864, page 21, that a saving of £50,000 a year would have resulted from such a change.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The present Board of Inland Revenue are not in a position to question the opinions formed and expressed by their predecessors in 1864 in respect of the changes which at that time were under consideration. But, in the circumstances of the present day, the Board are strongly of opinion: (a) that so long as the assessment of income-tax is entrusted to bodies of unpaid Commissioners, it is essential that these Commissioners should be provided with the services of competent clerks, who can advise them in regard to the law of income tax; (b) that the remuneration at present paid to such clerks is not excessive; and (c) that no economy would result from substituting official for parochial collectors of taxes.