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In time, the validity of the theory may be sought to be justified by reference to the practice of countries. But the theory will not be the reason why many countries adopted that approach. That reason is often buried in history. The theory may be the reason why a country continues to adopt a particular approach, but caution should be taken with such assertions.

A government may be under pressure from lobby groups to change a particular policy but may not wish to do so. In continuing its existing approach a government may feint support for a particular theory that supports the existing approach when the real reason for the continuation may be revenue impact or simply the deadweight costs associated with change. Political inertia is often explained by reference to adherence to particular theories.

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Searching for the historical origins of a particular approach facilitates understanding and assists in assessing theories that underlie that approach. Often particular approaches can be more clearly explained by the historical context and circumstances in which they are adopted. If those circumstances have changed or no longer exist that may lead to an appropriate reassessment of the approach.

A deeper understanding of the way in which society has developed and is developing should facilitate a deeper discussion of the way in which tax policy needs to adjust. This is the importance of historical research. All of the deeper questions outlined above with respect to the capital—revenue distinction can, to varying extents, be answered by delving into history before The same is true of deeper questions with respect to the other three questions that are the primary focus of this study.

This study is not exclusively focused on these four questions but it does expand on matters that might help in seeking an answer to them. These matters include, for example, the legal and social context in which the capital—revenue distinction may be relevant. This context covers, in particular, the feudal origins of property holding in England and how that developed into the wide-scale practice of holding property first through uses and then trusts. This context also covers the feudal origins of accounting in which stewardship was so important and the strong link between the origins of accounting and the origins of trust law.

In time, these areas grow into and are related with the growth in trade and the development of the corporation as a vehicle for that trade. The origins of the corporate form have a particular link with the expansion of international trade and international trade is linked with the development of overseas colonies. This study is structured under five chapters, which follow a basic chronological order. Chapter 1 covers the period to the outbreak of the English Civil War in This chapter essentially consists of discussion of English taxes, which go through a number of phases.

The discussion begins with the feudal origins of the tax system and its connection with royal government, land holding and religion. The discussion then proceeds through the development of the fifteenth and tenth, a tax notionally levied on movables, and to the initial levy of poll taxes in the fourteenth century.

Series | cambridge tax law series | Taxation law | Cambridge University Press

These taxes were likely influenced by the change in society occasioned by the Black Death bubonic plague and mark a change in approach to taxation that developed through the War of the Roses and into the early Tudor subsidies. These subsidies were essentially a broader based wealth tax with certain income tax aspects. The end of the Tudor period was relatively stable but matters start to progress again with the unification of the crowns of England and Scotland under the Stuarts.


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Disputes between the Stuarts and Parliament meant less reliance on the old form of Tudor subsidy and greater emphasis on raising money through local taxes and the ship writs. This period is important because it sees the foundation of the first colonies in the new world. Chapter 2 covers the period from the outbreak of the English Civil War, through the Commonwealth and to the Glorious Revolution.


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  • The English Civil War was a turbulent period during which the tax system moved, in its urgency, towards rationalisation and simplification. The English Civil War also had an impact in the colonies. The exodus of political refugees to the New World added to the existing exodus of people seeking to escape from religious persecution in Great Britain. Further, the preoccupation of Great Britain with the war at home facilitated the development of autonomy in the colonies.

    Income Tax in Common Law Jurisdictions: Volume 1, From the Origins to 1820

    Dispute arose after the Restoration when the crown sought to withdraw that autonomy. The fallout naturally affected the tax systems of the colonies. The Restoration also saw the development of the tax system in England. New styles of tax were introduced to fund the wars with France and the Dutch Republic that followed the Restoration and these sowed the seeds for further developments after the Glorious Revolution.

    Chapter 3 covers the better part of a century from the Glorious Revolution to the end of the Seven Years War, which resulted in British dominance of the east coast of America. The turbulent decade following the Glorious Revolution gave rise to substantial developments in the English tax system.

    In the tax laws of this period are virtually all the ingredients that go to make up the income tax of a century later. But just after the turn of the eighteenth century the English direct tax system first settles once again, this time in the form of the land tax, which was extended to Scotland in The land tax was, during this period, supplemented with presumptive taxes on the holding of various articles that came to be known as the Assessed Taxes. The decade after the Glorious Revolution was also a turbulent time for the tax systems in the colonies. Not only were there substantial increases in sophistication of the colonial tax laws but also a change in the types of taxes.

    Further, the acquisition of colonies during this period demonstrates the clear connection between colonial taxation and other European powers. The period from the end of the Seven Years War to the eve of the introduction of the modern income tax in Britain is covered by Chapter 4.

    The major part of this period may be divided into three.

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    First, in Britain the land tax continued, steadily supplemented with some adjustments in the Assessed Taxes. Second, this study continues to track developments in the newly independent states of the United States in order to check any cross influence with Britain and retained colonies until the income tax was introduced in Britain.

    Third, the most turbulence in the tax systems during this period is demonstrated in the retained colonies. Some of these were lost to other European powers during the American war and regained with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Others, especially the Canadian colonies, were inundated with loyalists from the former United States colonies. In the final chapter, matters turn to focus on the new disturbances for Britain closer to home in the form of the French army under Napoleon. The chapter begins with a brief consideration of the limited tax developments during the first phase of the wars.

    Discussion quickly turns to the second phase of the wars and a consideration of a major effort by Prime Minister Pitt to fund the British war effort in the form of the Triple Assessment. This tax was based on a multiple of the Assessed Taxes but limited to a tenth of income.

    At this time there were other similarly styled taxes in British colonies, particularly the Windward Islands in the West Indies. The chapter then turns to consider the first modern British income tax, which lasted from to with a short interval in The chapter rounds the decade out by also considering the settling of taxes during the last three years to The discussion in this final chapter focuses on the central questions identified above and seeks to draw conclusions about the origins of these features from the preceding discussion.

    There can be no categorical answers in this regard, but there can be informed suggestions, comments and assessment.


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    • The chapter also takes a brief pause to assess the point reached by the states of the United States by , which is important for an assessment of Canadian developments. The last chapter finishes with a consideration of developments in the colonies. Income styled taxes continued to develop during this period, particularly in the West Indies, and continue after the expiration of the income tax in Britain. Indeed, it seems that some of the West Indian income taxes span the period from the expiration of the income tax in Britain to its reintroduction in The study finishes with conclusions.

      There are five tables scatters throughout this study, one at the end of Chapter 1, another at the end of Chapter 2, two at the end of Chapter 3 and one at the end of Chapter 5. These tables seek to provide a snapshot of the various taxes imposed at various points in time. Table 1 covers taxes imposed in England to The remaining tables cover taxes of Britain and the colonies as at specific dates, namely circa , , and Consistent with the categories of taxes discussed above, the rows in the tables distinguish between in rem taxes, or taxes on wealth and returns from wealth, and personal taxes, or taxes on individuals and the activities of individuals.

      There are also sub-categorisations based on the type of wealth or type of activity in question. The columns in the tables first deal with the tax base, and sub-categorises depending on whether the tax is per article of wealth e. The final column is devoted to international jurisdiction, i. Of course, the taxes in question were not designed with these categories and sub-categories in mind and it is difficult to categorise some taxes and some tax laws simply do not contain sufficient information to enable an appropriate categorisation.

      This is particularly true of the international jurisdiction column. Therefore, no great reliance should be placed on the accuracy of the tables. Some of the information therein involves attribution on the verge of guesswork.