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LEINSTER LEADER EDITORIAL 8 APRIL 1916

NAAS, SATURDAY,  APRIL 8, 1916.

THE BUDGET

The introduction of the fresh War Budget in the House of Commons on Tuesday, awaited with such anxious expectancy by all classes, has been received with varying views amongst tax- prayers. All, however, were prepared for the announcement of some staggering figures, and there was no disappointment in this respect, while speculation as to the possible sources of revenue to be selected for further tapping by the Chancellor were in some respects not verified. On the other hand there was common agreement as to an increased burden to be borne, and a general disposition to bear it, but the manner in which the money is to be raised will not find unanimity in every detail. The estimated expenditure amounts to the colossal figure of £1,805,000.000, the revenue to £502,000.000, leaving the enormous deficit of £1,303,000.000 to be provided for. To meet this, the Chancellor selects the following sources of revenue- Income tax, £43,500.000; amusements, £5,000.000; railway duty, £3,000.000; sugar duty, £7,000.000; coffee and cocoa, £3,000.000; match duty, £2,000.000; mineral waters, £2,000.000; motors. £800.000; making a total of £65,300.000. To this is added the November Budget additions of £28,000.000, bringing the total up to £93,300.000, the methods proposed to raise the money will be an addition to income tax increasing from a small charge on lower incomes to charges on higher incomes, bringing the maximum rate to 5- in the £. The new rate on earned incomes up to £500 will be 2/3 in the £ instead of 2/1 1/5 as now. Between £500 and £1.000 a year the rate will rise from the present scale to 2/6 and by successive stages the scale is carried up to 5/-, when the total income exceeds £2.500 a year. On unearned incomes the new scale will begin at 3/- on incomes not exceeding £300, and will rise by stages of 6d. to 5/- which will be paid on incomes exceeding £2.000. All these charges are subject to existing statutory allowances and abatements. There will be no change in the rate of Super-Tax. There will be a graduated tax on tickets or entrance fees charged for amusements, including theatres, cinemas, athletic meetings, and racecourses, rising from 1½. on 2d. or under to 1/- on 12/6, with an additional shillings on every additional 10/-. Railway Tickets are to be taxed. There will be no tax on journeys costing 9d., but on all journeys from 9d. to 1/- a tax of 1d. is charged, with an additional penny for every additional shilling or part of a shilling. A halfpenny will be added to the Sugar Duty. The Cocoa Tax will be raised from 12d. to 6d. and coffee and chicory from 3d. to 6d. On matches will be there a new Customs duty of 3/6 and an Exercise duty of 3/4 per 10,000, or a duty of 4d. on 1,000 matches. Mineral Waters are to be taxed, ranging from 4d. per gallon on table water prepared with sugar or fermented: 5d. per gallon on all others. The tax on Cider and Perry will be 1d. per gallon. The duty on Motor Cars not exceeding 16 horse power will be doubled, and on higher cars trebled. Motor cycles not exceeding four horse power will pay 2 guineas, and above four horse power three-quarters of the duty chargeable on motor cars of like horse power. The Excess Profits Tax will be raised from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent. In general terms the budget may be accepted as being just in its equitable distribution of the burden it imposes, and the selection of such sources of, revenue as amusements, including theatres and football meetings, &c., will not be cavilled at by even patrons of these, because they are all luxuries which none but those blessed with spare money may enjoy. The additions to income tax also will not, we anticipate, give rise to serious opposition from any quarter, although it would be more than human to expect that resentment and individual protest will not be manifested. In like manner, it would be too much to expect that any Budget either in war or peace times could expect to escape criticism, or be received with universal approval, so many and diverse are the interests involved, and so sensitive is human nature in its worldly leanings. And while amusements, which are nothing but luxuries pure and simple, may be put down as rightful sources of revenue, imposing a tax on those who indulge in them, still the owners and others who have put their money into them may see nothing but wrong and injustice to themselves in reduced attendances, and, therefore, decreased profits. In like manner, the additions to income tax may furnish cause for grumbling, as striking unduly at particular interests, while many who are not called upon to pay any income tax would willingly submit to be in such a position of opulence as to pay a generous sum for the privilege. If we go to the other extreme we find the poor man and the labourer already hard pressed to keep the wolf from the door, deprived or a portion of the necessaries of life for himself and his family. For that is what an increased imposition on sugar, coffee, cocoa, or any other form of foodstuff means. It is a well-known fact that latterly many families of the poorer classes have been obliged to forego the cup that cheers, and which frequently was regarded as a staple article of food, and were more and more using cocoa and coffee. This is borne out by a big slump in the tea trade, and a reduction not alone in imports of the commodity, but a falling off in the trade of the wholesale houses. Of course in speaking of the poor man and the labourer we do not include the well-paid worker and skilled tradesmen who are at present enjoying a golden harvest in the munition works in England. As in the case of class and individual interests, Budgets may and admittedly do discriminate unfairly, so, too, in the case of countries which have not a common protective interest in their governing powers, may be unduly taxed in proportion to capacity. Ireland has suffered sorely in the loss of men and money in this war, and while her trade, commerce, and industry are injured, and have nothing but the blackest outlook in the future, if we accept the published views and opinions of acknowledged authorities on the subject, she is called upon to pay her alleged proportionate share of cost of the war. England on the other hand, has a good part of the money so raised spent and circulated again amongst its taxpayers in the output of munitions. While being immensely wealthy, and having Government expenditure lavished amongst its workers, England must, of course, be immeasurably better able to pay taxation, and hence it does not suffer or feel the burden to the same extent that this country must. This naturally leads to the grievance which the public bodies of the country have been discussing for some weeks past, and passing recanting resolutions on the subject, until one is forced to question whether they thoroughly understand the position at all. The merest tyro in public life of course realizes, and it is readily acknowledged on all hands, that Ireland for over a hundred years has been illegally over taxed under the Act of Union to the extent of nearly three million annually, and that since this was proved by a Government Commission 20 years ago taxation, instead of decreasing, has been steadily increased year by year. Yet the Chancellor does not admit that this country having regard to its prosperity has any special claim to exemption. Since the war broke out this taxation has increased by seven millions. This is the under-lying fact of the agitation promoted by the meeting last February in the Mansion House to resist further impositions. Mr. John Redmond and Mr. John Dillon, as leaders of the Irish Party, while acknowledging the truth and justice of the grievance and demands of the agitation, deprecate it as inopportune, and ask the country to wait until the war is over before demanding redress, lest it might hamper and embarrass the British Government at a crucial moment, affecting the very existence of the Empire, and so jeopardise the prospects for a satisfactory settlement of the Home Rule question. Some of the public bodies have accepted this advice, and recanted the resolutions adopted protesting against further over-taxation, while others, failing to see that there would be any hope of redress once the Government was out of present troubles, think that now is the time to press for a settlement, and resist further “legalized robbery.” Furthermore, the recalcitrant public boards fail to see the use or value of Home Rule if the country continues to be fleeced and ruined by over-taxation. This is the position, and so far the country does not seem to have made up its mind as to which course to take. The “Freeman” and “Independent” are engaged in a kind of newspaper duel over the matter, and daily publish the opinions of public boards and the views of the provincial press, the former those against the agitation to resist further taxation, and the latter those in favour of it. In the midst of it all we have now a fresh Budget brought in under which the taxation of this country will, it is estimated, be doubled for war purposes. We have before in these columns given expression to our opinion as to the position which those pubic bodies have placed themselves who have already approved of Mr. Redmond’s policy, formed recruiting committees, and passed resolutions that this being Ireland’s war, Irishmen should join the British army and fight in it. Mr. Redmond, we repeat, would be false to the trust reposed in him by the British Government, and the public bodies of this country who resolved to support him, would be acting inconsistently and illogically if they refused to contribute to the cost of the war in money as well as in men.

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