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has been little said against the duty on paper. If mentioned at all, it has been introduced into the discussions on the taxes on knowledge, to found an argument in favour of reducing the stamp duties, on the supposition of the paper duty being retained. We are told that, were the stamps reduced from 4d., with 20 per cent discount, to one penny nett, any loss that would accrue to the revenue would be made up by the additional number of stamps that would be required, and the additional amount of duty on paper which the increased circulation of newspapers would produce. The argument is a good one. By such a scheme the revenue would be increased very considerably ; not diminished, as Lord Althorp affects to believe. But knowledge is too precious to be made the subject of impost for the sake of revenue. The only impost on the circulation of knowledge which ought to be tolerated by a people pretending to be free, is a stamp duty equivalent to the expense of circulation by post ; for which purpose Mr. Hume thinks a halfpenny per sheet more than sufficient. Supposing, however, that the diffusion of knowledge is to be taxed for the sake of revenue, we contend that it is much better to levy the tax directly, in the shape of a stamp duty on the news. paper, than indirectly, by means of an excise duty on the paper in the hands of the manufacturer. It is to the excise duty on the munufacture of paper that we now request attention.
The duty on printing paper, of whatever quality, is threepence per pound weight. Printing papers for books and newspapers generally sell at from 10d. to 1s. 2d. per pound. Taking 1s. per pound as the aver. age, and in fact the most general price, let us see how much Government gains, and how much the people lose, by this manner of taxing their newspapers and books.
A ream of paper generally sells at about £1, and weighs about twenty pounds. The duty of 3d. per pound here amounts to exactly 5s. It must not, however, be supposed that the papermaker charges his customer, the bookseller, in the exact proportion of 15s. for paper and 5s, for duty; and that, were the duty abolished, 5s. per ream is all the abatement that he could afford to make. The price of the paper is enhanced materially by the excise regulation, independently of the nett sum of duty paid. This is the case, indeed, with every excised commodity. The regulations which the papermakers must observe, under severe penalties, are numerous, minute, and in the highest degree vexatious and troublesome. The paper maker scarcely feels himself at home in his own premises; the excisemen being the real masters there. They must know the description of paper, the quantity, and the weight made at each par. ticular vat, on each particular day; and this must be entered before 12 o'clock next day, under a penalty. The paper must be put up in no quantities but reams; and each ream must be tied up in a wrapper, to which a label obtained from the excise upon previous application, must be attached. There are inspections, weighings, markings, and countermarkings, the very enumeration of which would be an infliction, and which, therefore, we spare all our readers, except those who choose to read the tiresome detail in a note. In addition to all this annoyance, the actual expense of the clerks, foremen, &c, required, merely in consequence of the excise regulations, amounts to no inconsiderable sum. The papermaker, whose letter we give below, estimates the expense caused him by the excise at L.300; but calculates that one way and another, the advantage to him were the excise duty taken off, would be equal to
L.1000 a-year ; of which the public would reap the benefit in a reduced price of paper, independently of the reduction directly caused by the absence of duty.*
Profit is charged by all manufacturers, for outlay, trouble, and risk, There can be no doubt, therefore, that, as the Excise duty causes an advance of money, much trouble, of the most vexatious kind, and the same risk of bad debts as the paper itself is subject to, the paper. maker must have the same profit on the sum paid for duty, and wages of clerks, &c. required in consequence of the Excise regulations, as upon any other part of his outlay ; such as rags, wages of labour, tear and wear of machinery, &c. The papermaker's expenses are paid before his goods are brought to market; and when he sells, he has to allow a run. ning credit of at least three months, and then generally takes a bill at a long date in payment. Looking to all this, we may safely say, that instead of 5s. per ream, which is all that the Excise office receives from him, he must charge his customer 6s. 6d. Were the Excise duty on paper abolished, we doubt not that the same paper which is now sold
• “I have all my life regarded the whole system of the Excise Laws as a most dis. graceful one, and utterly repugnant to the spirit of the British Constitution. It is a matter of astonishment to me, that any British Government should have been able to inflict such a vexatious mode of collecting revenue, or that the British people should have so long submitted to it; and although, probably from a small proportion of the population being directly affected by the Excise Laws, they have not obtained that public attention, as a grievance, which might have been expected, I trust I shall livo to see the day when they shall be swept off the face of the earth. I allude chiefly to the constant annoyance to the regular, vexatious, and suspicious interference, to which a manufacturer under the Excise is exposed; and to the distraction of his attention from his business, by the demands of petty functionaries, generally his inferiors in e very sense of the word.
6 There is, perhaps, no trade under the Excise, where these grievances are more felt, than in the manufacture of paper ; and the first thing that strikes the inquirer is, that, while the duty is levied on most excisable articles a good deal en masse, in the case of paper, it is preceded by a most dilatory and laborious process. The duty is charged on the pound weight; and yet every description of paper must be made up in the same quantity, viz. a ream. The details are these :--Before any ream could be tied up, a wrapper of the size must previously have had a label pasted upon it ; and that label must be dry and firmly attached to the wrapper. These labels are furnished to us by the Excise in such quantities as we shall have previously requested in writing. We are bound to account for every label, under a penalty of £200 for every one deficient ; so that it is a matter requiring great care to check the number furnished, and keep a distinct and accurate account of them. After the ream has been tied up, the class to which the paper belongs must be written upon it, and also the estimated weight of each ream. We are then bound to keep the stock in such a manner that the officers may at all times take an account of it, and so that they may see the label on every individual ream.
“When the paper is brought forward to be charged with duty, we are also obliged to affix the progressive number upon each ream, the quarter and year, and the date on which it is charged ; and the officer must repeat the weight in writing, and his name, on cvery ream. Then comes the stamping; which, although it ought to be performed by the officer, yet, for the sake of dispatch, or it may be unwillingness on the part of the officer, is generally done by one of our own servants. There is then the weigh. ing, and keeping accounts of the weighing, and many other particulars; and affix. ing the departure stamp three times to every ream before it goes out. You will readily imagine that the trouble occasioned by all these details is very great. It is impossible to act strictly up to the letter of crery act of Parliament; but of course we must do so as far as possible: and to all I have stated must be added, the keeping of accounts for the Excise, of the paper, and the estimated weight and quantity made at every vat and machine every day, and which must be entered before 12 o'clock on the following day, under a penalty for non-compliance. Then, about once a-week,
NO, XI, VOLII.
at 20s. per ream would be sold at 13s. 6d., or 13s. The effect of other abolitions of Excise duties goes to prove this. But suppose the reduction of Excise duties only 6s. 6d., let us see the effect to the public. The newspaper proprietor must, of course, charge a profit on all the items of his outlay; and as he, too, must give credit, and run risks, he must have at least 10 per cent. from the newsmen more than his expenditure, which will raise the 6s. 6d. to 7s. 2d. Again, the newsman, who in his turn gives credit, and runs risks, longer and greater than those of the newspaper proprietor, adds a profit, as is well known, of about 20 per cent., paying 5 d. for a newspaper, and charging 7d. ; this aug. ments the 7s. 2d. to 8s. 7d. Farther, the 5s. is diminished to Govern. ment by the expense of collecting the Excise duties, averaging 6 per cent.; and the part that relates to paper probably exceeding that rate. Six per cent. off 5s, reduces it to 4s. 8 d.; so that the public really pay 8s. 7d. in consequence of the duty on paper, while the Exchequer receives only 4s. 8 d. Such is the effect of indirect taxation.
No doubt, the stamp duty also is aggravated to the public by the news. paper proprietor's 10 per cent. and the newsmen's 20 per cent. But the
we have a visit from a Supervisor, who if, as is generally the case, there has been a charge, must weigh over the whole ; and if he makes the draft a single pound more than the officer, it must be set down against us. It is generally the other way, viz. that his weight is short of the officer's; but in this case no deduction is made, the highest guage always being taken. I ought also to reckon a good deal on account of the Excise rounds beginning (in place of the 1st day of each quarter) on the 6th, and sometimes so late as the 10th. As all other mercantile accounts begin as from the 1st, we have to pay, for any papers charged in the beginning of the quarter, duty six weeks earlier than we ought fairly to do.
“I could mention various other causes and annoyances and loss from the Excise re. gulations. To give you one instance, I will state the process that takes place in pre. paring papers for exportation. We usually export large quantities of paper, generally in very small packages, quarto, octavo, &c. To do so, of course, the whole must be in the first place charged" with duty. We contend, that if it be weighed over, and the number of reams and weight be entered in the ordinary accounts against us, the intention of the law is fulfilled, but the Excise says, No: the law, in all its details, must be complied with, and, accordingly, the whole operation of pasting la. bels, filling up the class, estimated weight, progressive number, date, officer's name, &c., &c.,must be performed upon every individual ream and parcel, although the Excise are quite aware, that on the following day, the whole is to be undone by the wrappers as well as labels on the paper so to be exported, being destroyed, before it is packed for exportation. The paper is necessarily and unnecessarily injured by being thus twice knocked about, and a great waste of time and labour is the consequence, both to the trader and the officer. We lately petitioned that it might (as was formerly the case) be done away with; and that one operation of weighing might serve for charging the weight against us, and for entitling us to the certificate of the packing officer, when he sees the paper packed. There is no reason why such accommodation should not be granted to us, as two officers are always requisite on the occasion ; and you will readily perceive, from what I have said, the absurdity and uselessness of such a system.
“ Another inconvenience we suffer here is, from having a number of mills. We make, but do not finish paper at each; and before we can remove paper from one to another which is often desirable, even on a very short notice, we must give notice to the of. ficer of our intention so to do, and get his certificate, or permit, which must accompany the paper in its transit, and there be duly taken care of, and delivered over to the functionary, and an account, &c. duly retained of it.
"The actual outlay caused to us for wages of clerks and workmen I calculate at £300 ; but I have no doubt that we should be nearly £1000 per annum better, if freed of the Excise. One element of my calculation was founded upon the extent of bad debts. There is scarcely a year but we (and we presume every maker to the same extent) do not lose £1000 entirely on bad debts, of which, of course, more than one-fourth is the duty on the paper. It is on printing papers being sold at a long credit, that we are most exposed to it.”
papermaker's per centage, which, from vexatious interference, expense of clerks, &c., risk, and outlay of capital, must be heavy, is saved, and also the expense to Government of collecting the Excise duty. The collection of the stamp duties is attended with little trouble to the newspaper proprietor, and scarcely any expence to the stamp office.
Perhaps the best way of all, for the interest of the public, would be to avoid the evils of indirect taxation of newspapers entirely, by abolishing both the paper and stamp duties, and levying a postage of one penny on each newspaper every time it goes through the post-office, whatever may be the distance it goes. In this way the local circulation would not be taxed at all, and the sums paid in postage would all go undiminished into the treasury, or diminished merely by that very trifling additional expence to the post-office which the transmission of the newspapers might occasion. The only drawback from the obvious advantage to the public of this method, would be the inducement which the penny of postage and the want of the local news might afford to the inhabitants of pro. vincial towns, to prefer their own provincial newspapers, with their nar. row views, timid speculations on politics, and inferior literary merit, to the metropolitan papers.
If we have succeeded in shewing that if a revenue to any extent is to be derived from the circulation of knowledge, it ought not to be col. lected by an Excise duty, so far as newspapers are concerned, it is easy to show that the same objections to the duty on paper apply still more strongly to the case of books. The evils of the indirect system of taxation more strikingly manifest themselves in this case than in the other, by reason of the taxed articles passing through a greater number of hands between the Government and the last purchaser.
Supposing, as before, that the Exchequer collects 3d. per lb., or 5s. per ream, from the papermaker, and charges 6s, 6d, to his customer, the publishing bookseller ; the latter adds a charge of generally 100 per cent. on his outlay for paper, as well as on the other expenses of the book; the per centage varying according to the supposed risk of the book selling to the extent of the whole impression, or a small part of it only, in ten weeks, or ten years, and at the regular trade price, or the price of waste paper. The risks of publishing, the long outlay of capital, and the amount of bad debts, are so considerable, that 100 per cent. may be taken as the addition required to be made by publishers to the outlay on a book; and we know that to be about the average rate laid on. Well, the 6s. 6d. which the paper maker charges the publisher, by reason of the excise duty on paper, is thus increased by the publisher in his charge to the wholesale bookseller (to a large extent of the impression of every book, a different person from the publisher) to 13s. The wholesale bookseller who supplies the retail booksellers of London, of Dublin, or of Edinburgh, adds 11, or more frequently, 17} per cent. on the sum charged by the publisher. Suppose the latter, for a reason that shall instantly be explained : 171 per cent. on 13s. is 2s. 2d. ; the 13s now therefore becomes 15s. 2d. Lastly, the retail bookseller's profit, where he gives the regular credit, and allows no discount at settling, (the most common case,) is an addition to the price he has paid the wholesale bookseller, of 431 per cent, if the latter has been allowed the regular discount by the publisher, and has added only 11 per cent. commission, and 37 per cent. if the wholesale bookseller, has added 17 per cent. As we supposed this latter case before, we must, to preserve accuracy, take the same case again. Adding, therefore, 37} per cent., or 5s, 8d. to 15s. 2d., we have £.1, Os. 10d., the sum the purchaser of the book pays, in consequence of the Excise duty on paper, while the Exchequer draws 58., diminished by 6 per cent. as the expense of collection, viz. 4s. 8 d. Behold once more the effect of indirect taxation. Think of the pur. chasers of books paying £.1, Os. 10d., to yield government only 4s. 8 d., and then think of the operation of such a duty in diminishing the sale of books.
We do not mean to say that the proportion which the total sum which the public pays in consequence of the duty on paper, bears to the total amount of the duty drawn by the Exchequer, is as L.1. Os. 10d, to 4s. sid. Far from it. The case of books is different from that of newspapers and cheap periodicals. Every copy of these is sold ; the publishers taking care to print no more than the number for which they have a steady demand. It is not so with books, as every bookseller, publisher, wholesale dealer, or retailer, will acknowledge with a sigh: Witness Mr. Colburn's thirty thousand volumes of Fashionable and Historical novele, offered at 8d. per volume, on condition of exportation: witness the advertisements and catalogues of the Cheap Booksellers, where (published at 15s.) 3s. 6d, frequently meets your eye: witness the prodigious loads of books which enter the warehouse of that noble speci. men of the Bull family, Mr. John Chidley, Goswell-street, London, which enter books, and exeunt waste paper: witness the paper in which the tobacconist ties your cigars, and the grocer your sugar. To such profane uses are put the sheets which the poor author fondly trusted would bear his fame to the four quarters of heaven; sheets which he had written with such labour, yet with such joyous anticipations; which he had shewn with such ill-dissembled pride to “a few particular friends ;" which, when the stupid and illiterate booksellers had returned “ with many thanks for the honour done them by their being favoured with a perusal of so very respectable a work,” but without an offer of either copy-money, or taking upon themselves the risk (harsh word to an author !) of publication, he had, with noble confidence in his own powers, resolved to “publish at his own expense,” and “shame the rogues;" which he had seen put through the press with affectionate solicitude, sometimes consulting three friends about the location of one comma, and standing for hours by the press, witnessing the birth of the rapidly succeeding sheets, and rejoicing, almost with a father's joy, when the book at last appeared in extra boards on the counter of his publisher. Alas, alas ! for the poor author's hopes of profit or of fame-of proceeds of sales to meet expenses of paper, print, and advertising-of notices in the Magazines, and reviews in the Quarterlies. All is disappointment; his hopes “subdued, but cherished long,” are at last utterly extinguished. The Publisher's account stands thus :
Author and his friends - - - 50 Copies
and Reviews - - - - - 27 -
dered by Author, per list Sales
- - 26 -