The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER THURSDAY, JULY 1, 1880.
It is a co-incidence that a really Liberal Government has just assumed the reins in England, and, to redeem the ground lost by really Conservative predecessors, has found it necessary to add a penny to the most inquisitorial of all taxes—that on income ; while in New Zealand a really Liberal Government —that succeeded a Ministry whose only claim to be called Liberal was that they made use of a great amount of Liberal “cant,” but when put to the test were found sadly wanting—have found the creation of new taxes imperative to the colony’s position, lost by those in power before them. We have often heard it claimed for a general property tax in England that its operations would be far more equitable than an income tax, inasmuch as such a tax would cover all forms of realised property, and form a far better basis for ecpiality of direct taxation than any other that could be devised. It was urged—is urged now—that - the income tax is the reverse of equitable in its incidence, and is not infrequently especially heavy on uncertain incomes. For instance, the income of a lawyer, or a doctor is not always to be accurately reckoned, and there are other professions that are even still more precarious. The professional men, merchants, and men generally whose incomes depend on their own abilities have ever grumbled at this tax, holding out against its irregularity, and asserting that it hampered their energies ; and the only plea that can be urged in its favor is its elasticity—the addition of a penny to the British income tax means an addition of two millions to the British revenue. In no way does it touch the working man, and it balances in some degree, by its direct action, upon the wealthy, with the indirect contribution which working men make to the public revenue. Thus we never hear of working men opposing an income tax, they are always loud in its support, because they look upon it in the light of a duty that wealth has to discharge to the country. The elasticity of this tax, is, we have said, the only point in its favor, and we in New Zealand have no tax at all equivalent to it, except the property tax, which is so much impugned, and which has been denounced as so inquisitorial. We are rather surprised to hear an income tax asked for instead of this property tax —as wc feel assured that, once fairly at work the income tax would be found to be far more obnoxious because not nearly so equal in its incidence as is the property tax now in operation. It has been pointed out by some politicians that had a property tax been the better and more satisfactory of the two, it would have adopted ere now. This does not follow. To change the income for a property tax in England now would entail a huge amount of trouble, for England is not the cake of a country for population that New Zealand is, and a change in the system of taxation at Home would cause much trouble in mercantile circles, and for a time disorganise financial arrangements to an extent that would affect every part of the world where Britain spreads the webs of her commerce. Far rather would the taxpayers of England retain the income tax than submit to a change that, though it would alter the incidence of direct taxation, would altogether relieve no one who has to pay, and constant changes are infinitely more objectionable than paying somewhat unequally under a permanent tax. Why working men should cry out against a property tax that can never reach them we fail to see, and it is equally inapparent to us that a system of taxation that touches only realised wealth should be condemned as inquisitorial, and a system equally inquisitorial in the income tax should be preferred.