Mr. Sanford to Mr. Seward.
Sir: In view of the important changes about to be made in our revenue system, and believing that we can consult with profit the experience and the practice of other states in respect to taxation, I deem it proper to submit to you, somewhat in detail, an analysis of the revenue system of Belgium, which I think may prove of special interest as based upon the system of other nations, modified so as to conform to the more liberal institutions of a semi-republican state.
The revenue system of Belgium is based, 1st, upon the French laws which remained in force after its separation from France, in 1814, and which are the foundation of the whole structure; 2d, upon the laws established in common for Belgium and Holland while it was a part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, (from 1815 to 1830;) and 3d, upon the legislation since the revolution of 1830.
The French revenue system was described by me in a memoir when chargé d’affaires at Paris, accompanying my No. 48 to your department, and was printed by order of the Senate as Executive Document No. 68 of 33d Congress, 1st session, and I beg to refer to it for an outline of the then existing system in France, to p. 187 et seq., and for details touching its administration to pp. 277, 278, and 290 et seq. of appendix.
The taxes and imports in Belgium may be divided into four great divisions, viz:
I. Those which are paid on account of what a person possesses or what he acquires in a continued and permanent manner.
II. Those which are paid on account of accidental acquisition, whether by purchase, inheritance, or by process of law.
III. Those upon very common articles of consumption.
IV. Those for services rendered by the state to the people.
There are, besides, some other sources of public revenue, but of small importance, difficult to class in any of those categories, and which will be indicated hereafter.
To the first category belongs the tax on real estate, “foncier,” instituted by the French law of 7 Frimaire, an 7, and which is upon the net revenue of all lands and buildings, established by an evaluation which the state makes periodically of all real estate, and which is called the “Cadastre” The present basis of the tax is upon the valuation of 1843. The amount of this is 18,886,290 francs, or $3,777,260, and is levied on 848,000 proprietors at a cost of about 11 per cent.
2. The personal tax, which corresponds greatly to what are called assessed taxes in England, and from which this is copied. It was established by the law of 8th June, 1822, under the Dutch regime, and is, consequently, the same in Holland as in Belgium. It is established in the valuation of the gross rental or revenue of every habitation or building which exceeds $8 40 per annum; on the number of doors and windows of inhabited houses; the number of fire places therein; the value of the furniture; the servants employed, when permanent and for domestic service; upon horses for pleasure or other than necessary labors for the trade or business of the owner.
The tax on doors and windows varies according to the population of the towns in which the dwellings are located. The tax-payers themselves declare [Page 669] the number of their fire-places, and of their servants and horses employed by them. The residue is generally submitted to the valuation of agents of the government.
This tax varies, necessarily, according to the augmentation of houses and the increase of the national wealth.
It amounts to $2,101,000, and was imposed in 1861 on 402,115 persons.
3. The tax on licenses, or patente, so called, which is upon the revenue of all trades and occupations save that of agriculture. It was established by law of 5th May, 1819, and is still, in its general principles, imposed also in Holland.
Every industrial occupation pays according to the bases of evaluation, which are different according to these occupations. These bases are declared by the tax-payer, and are subject to government control and verification. When labor is the principal agent, the basis is the number of workmen; when the capital is the principal agent, the basis of the tax is the conjectured annual profit. For other occupations the basis is, in addition, the relation to the population of the localities where these occupations are exercised. This tax amounts to $803,000, on 286,545 persons.
1. The registry tax comes first under this head. It was established by a law of the French republic of 22 Frimaire, an 7, and is still in force in France as well as Belgium.
This tax is levied upon every sale, donation, or gain, by sentence of court, of real estate and personal property, and is generally 4 per centum of the price; and on personal property, when by written act or (for sale) by public vendue, is much less than for transfer of real estate, varying from 2 per centum to 1/2 per centum, according to the nature of the property.
There is also a registry tax upon leases of rural property, proportioned to the rented value and the duration of the lease. There is also a registry tax upon all written acts and contracts liable to be used in court, and which varies according to their nature. This tax amounts to $2,660,000.
2d. The tax on mortgages, which is levied on all acts of mortgage or hypothecation made to secure a debt, and varies according to the debt. This tax amounts to $485,000.
3d. The tax called de greffe, record office, on copies given and demand of decisions, or acts of courts of justice, &c. This tax amounts to $50,000.
4th. The tax on heritages in collateral line, established by a law of Holland of December 27, 1817, and in force at this time equally in that country. This tax varies from 4 to 10 per centum on the value of the heritage, the degree of relationship, or the absence of any. It is one-half the amount when the property is left in entail. This tax amounted, the past year, to $1,740,000.
5th. The tax on heritages in direct line, which was established in 1853. This tax is 10 per centum upon what is inherited in real estate. It amounted, in 1861, to $31,000; and on surviving widow or widower to $30,000.
1. The custom duties, established according to tariffs, which have been frequently modified, and which have lately ceased entirely with respect to cereals, and have been greatly reduced of late upon imports generally.
Tonnage dues are also included under this head. The aggregate receipts are $3,223,000, at a cost of perception, owing to numerous officers (5,000) to guard its frontiers, of about 30 per centum.
2. Excise. The bases of this tax were established, under the government of Holland, in 1822, but the laws regulating it have been frequently modified since 1830, both with respect to the amount of the tax and the mode of perception.[Page 670]
This tax is levied on articles of very general consumption. In the time of the Dutch there was an excise upon flour and upon meat. This has been abolished in Belgium by the revolution separating Belgium from Holland. The excise exists at this time upon all foreign wines, beer, and vinegar, foreign and domestic spirits, and upon sugar. The tax differs on the various articles. The total amount levied under this head is $9,374,000.
The sources of revenue under this head are simply payments made to the state for services rendered, as, for example, railroads and telegraphs, highways and canals, which it owns and carries on and derives revenue from transportation upon messages and tolls, from the post office, from the guarantee of gold and silver articles, the mint, &c, &c The amount from these sources is $8,024,000.
There are, in addition to these four categories, other taxes not properly falling within them. First among these is that of stamps, (timbre,) which is one of the taxes established, like the real estate and registry tax, during the French regime, and is still in force in France.
This tax consists in a stamp placed by the state upon paper which must be employed for various acts in ordinary commercial and industrial transactions, public procedures, &c. This paper is sold in certain public bureaus, at a price marked on each sheet, and which varies according to the nature of the act. It produced in 1861 $721,000.
The state also possesses some domains which are sources of revenue, and there are some other imposts of too trifling a nature to be designated here in detail, producing about $1,000,000.
The aggregate amount of the revenues of Belgium resulting from the sources indicated is $30,000,000, for a population of 4,500,000, and at a cost of about ten per centum. Articles of consumption furnish thirty-nine per centum of the amount, and real and personal property pay the remainder, (sixty-one per centum,) showing that taxes are lighter upon the masses here than in France or England, the proportion in France being forty-five per centum for the first and fifty-five per centum for the second, and in England seventy-one per centum and twenty-nine per centum, respectively.
To this general outline of the revenue system of Belgium, a full and detailed account of the various branches of taxation indicated is indispensable for practical purposes.
The constitution provides that no tax or impost to the profit of the state shall be established save by law, and, moreover, that these taxes shall be voted annually, and the laws which established them shall have force but for one year if not renewed. In accordance with this provision, the law containing the budget of ways and means provides each year that the taxes existing on the 31st December in principal and additional, ordinary or extraordinary centimes, (or per centum,) shall be collected during the new fiscal year according to the laws and tariffs which regulate the paying and collection of the same.
It is of these laws that I propose giving the analysis.
1. Fonder, or real estate tax. The articles of the French law of 3 Frimaire, an 7, constituting the tax, are as follows:
“Art. 2. The levying of the real estate tax is made in equal proportion upon all real property, according to the net annual revenue, without other exceptions than those determined hereafter for the encouragement of agriculture or for the general interest of society.
“Art. 3. The net revenue of lands is what remains to the proprietor, deduction [Page 671] made from the gross product of the expense of culture, sowing, manuring, and keeping up the land.
“Art. 4. The taxable revenue is the mean net revenue calculated upon a certain number of years.
“Art. 5. The net taxable revenue of houses, and that of manufacturers, forges, mills, and other like establishments, is what remains to the proprietor, deduction made of rental valuation, calculated upon a certain number of years, of the sum necessary to indemnify for wear and tear, expenses of keeping up the establishment, and for repairs.”
The sum of the operations to arrive at this valuation is called the cadastre survey and valuation of lands, and is a detailed work of surveys, valuations, &c., in which all changes in real property, whether by sale or other transfer, building or destruction of houses, are carefully noted, and by which the extent as well as productive value is determined.
The tax at the time of forming the cadastre was calculated at four per centum upon the revenue. It is probably, with the increased value of property, at this time less than half that. By law of 9th March, 1848, the principal of real estate tax was divided among the nine provinces of the kingdom according to the result of the cadastre ; and the law further provided that the amount of taxable revenue arrived at on the 31st December, 1843, should be the basis of this tax, until a new revision of the cadastral operations. The whole amount thus fixed for the kingdom is $3,188,905, divided, as before said, in determined sums among the nine provinces of Belgium.
In addition to this principal sum there are what are called additional centimes, or percentage, the amount of which is fixed each year by the law of the budget. For 1862 they are as follows: three centimes additional ordinary; two centimes for non-values; ten centimes extraordinary; three centimes supplementary—making eighteen centimes, or eighteen per cent., thus swelling the amount by nearly $600,000.
Exemptions.—The streets, public places serving for markets or fairs, the public roads or highways, and river are not taxable.—(Article 113, law of 3d Frimaire, an 7.) Taxes on lands occupied for military works, or inundated so as to give no revenue to the proprietor, cease from that moment to be due up to the time when the enjoyment of the same is restored to him. A deduction may also be made on taxes due upon property of which the enjoyment of a part has been lost to the owner.—(Royal decree of June 11, 1815.) Buildings destined for public service, as indicated by law of 11th of August, 1808, are also exempt from this tax. Also schools in which teaching is entirely gratuitous, and which belong to charitable establishments. The buildings, however, serving for dwelling to the masters of such schools, are not exempt.—(Decree of 17th of September, 1808.)
Canals destined to conduct water to mills, forges, and other like establishments, or for irrigation, are taxed on, but only for, the amount of space which they occupy, and upon the footing of the lands they pass through only. Canals for navigation, constructed at the expense of the public or of individuals, are not subject to this tax, save for the amount of land they occupy, and as land of first quality.—(Law of 5-15 Florial, an 11.)
Woods and forests belonging to the nation are also exempt.—(Law of 19 Ventose, an 9, art. 1.)
Temporary exemption is accorded for buildings newly built, reconstructed, or enlarged, as well as for wild or uncultivated lands which are to be put under culture.—(Law of March, 28, 1828, and also of March 25, 1847.) A reduction is allowed for houses remaining uninhabited during the year, but of the part of the tax laid upon the construction only.
The mechanism of the legislation touching this tax is very simple. The division of the whole amount, which is determined each year by the legislature, [Page 672] is made, as has been shown, in an invariable manner between the nine provinces of the kingdom. On the 31st of December all the revenue liable to taxation is added up in each province as determined by the Cadastre, (survey of lands.) This total sum of revenue divided by the amount fixed for the province, gives the per centum of tax to be paid under this head for the year. It is evident, therefore, that with the increase of buildings, improvements, and consequent valuation of lands, that this tax, the amount of which was fixed arbitrarily years ago, is now much lighter upon the real property of the country than at the time of its establishment. The number of proprietors in Belgium who pay this tax is about 848,000.
2. “Personal tax.—This tax is established by the law of June 28, 1822, upon the six following bases: 1, rental; 2, doors and windows; 3, fire-places; 4, furniture; 5, domestics; 6, horses. The law carefully defines these bases and determines the amount of the tax as follows:
1st basis—rental.—Article 2. “The personal tax upon rentals shall be 4 per cent, upon the annual gross rental of every dwelling or building.”
2d basis—doors and windows.—Article 13. “The following tariff shall be paid for every door or window opening upon streets, courts, gardens, waters, or canals: For doors and windows of the ground floor and windows of first and second stories, in towns of less than 5,000 inhabitants, for each door or window, 17 cents; in towns of over 5,000 souls, but under 10,000, 21 cents for each door or window; in towns of 10,000 souls and over, but under 25,000,25J cents for each door or window; in towns of 25,000 and over, and under 50,000, for each door or window, 34 cents; in towns of 50,000 and over, for each door or window, 46 1/2 cents. Windows of the higher stories and doors and windows of cellars which are used as dwellings, pay, in towns under 5,000 inhabitants, 17 cents each, and in towns over 5,000 inhabitants, 21 cents.
3d basis—fire-places.—When there is but one fire-place in a building, 17 cents; when there are two, each pays 32 cents; when three and more, up to twelve, for each 74 cents.—(Article 19.)
4th basis—furniture.—This tax is 20 cents for every $20 of valuation of furniture.—(Article 25.)
5th basis—servants.—For each domestic in the service of an individual or a family, the tax is $2 97. Where only one female servant is employed, the tax is only $1 69. For workmen or workwomen employed at the same time as domestics, the tax for each is $1 74.
6th basis—horses.—Upon horses of three years old and upwards the tax is as follows: For every pleasure horse kept by an individual or family, $8 48; for every horse kept by stage proprietors, riding-school owners, or livery-stable keepers, serving for the transportation of persons, $2 12 ; for horses exclusively destined for agriculture, manufactories, mills, professions, and trades, and which are also employed attached to spring vehicles, the tax for each is $2 87; for the horse of every soldier or functionary kept in accordance with the regulations of his service, when employed for other service than that prescribed by the regulations, the tax is $2 87 ; for every horse kept by a soldier or functionary in excess of the number fixed by the regulations, the tax is $8 48.
Horse merchants, or those whom the public recognize as such, at their places of residence, duly licensed, and who are not keepers of livery, if they have less than ten horses, pay $8 48; if they have ordinarily more than ten, they are liable to pay $16 96.
By a modification of this law, under date of March 12,1837, horses employed as saddle horses or with spring vehicles pay $3 only, if employed principally or habitually by physicians, surgeons, veterinary doctors, manufacturers, commercial travellers, and farmers, in the exercise of their calling. Also horses used for the service of the militia, when employed on other occasions as saddle horses or with spring vehicles. The same tax is also paid for saddle or carriage horses [Page 673] but employed habitually for professions not designated above, when they are in dispensable for the exercise of those professions.
Exceptions.—After having defined the bases and determined the amount of the tax, the law of June 28, 1822, and other subsequent laws, lay down the obligations of all those liable to taxes, prescribe the penalties in case of contravention, regulate the mode of collecting, and Fix the cases of exemption, the principal of which are the following:
Upon the first four bases given are exempted:
1st. Dwellings of an annual rental of $8 48, and those rented by the week for less than 251-2 cents.—(Law of June 28, 1822.)
2d. Buildings used for manufactories or mills, barns and stables serving for agricultural purposes; churches, schools, public establishments of instruction or charity; lastly, buildings employed for the public service—for the state, provinces, cities, or villages; but those parts of these buildings inhabited or employed for other than the public service indicated, are to be taxed.—(Law of June 28, 1822, and of June 28, 1832.)
3d. The proprietors or lessees of houses which are not occupied, save by guardians, and contain no furniture belonging to either, the portion occupied by the guardian in such case is considered as a distinct dwelling, and the guardian is subjected to the tax corresponding thereto. If, on the contrary, the house contains furniture belonging to the owner or lessee, it will then be considered as inhabited and the taxes collected for the whole house. Nevertheless, the owner or lessee of a house which has remained unoccupied a whole year, that is, from the 1st of January to the 31st of December of the previous year, shall be exempted from the personal tax for the current year, even when it has contained furniture, provided that the tax for the past year has been paid upon this dwelling.–(Law of June 28, 1822.)
The following are also exempted from the personal tax under the second basis:
1st. Doors and windows serving to light or air garrets, cellars, or other places which do not serve as dwellings.—(Law of June 28, 1822.)
2d. Windows in roofs or coverings.—(Idem, idem.)
The following are also exempted from the personal tax under the third basis:
1st. Fire-places, exceeding twelve in number, in each house or dwelling.— (Law of June 28, 1822, of December 29, 1831, and December 30, 1832.)
2d. Ovens for baking bread in the rural villages and in cities, when separated from dwellings or buildings; also fire-places condemned by stoppage of the chimneys to which they correspond.—(Law of June 28, 1822,)
The exemptions under the fourth basis are, furniture exposed for sale or hire in shops, magazines, workshops, or manufactories, or repositories of manufacturers, sellers, or hirers of these articles.
The exemptions under the fifth basis are:
1st. Workmen or workwomen employed in work of agriculture strictly, when they contribute household work with that in the fields.
2d. Nurses while acting in the capacity of wet nurse, and servant girls under fifteen years of age.
3d. Tutors and governesses charged with instruction and education of children; secretaries, clerks, and gardeners, provided none of them are at the same time employed in domestic service.
4th. Seamstresses, house cleaners, and others of the like, provided their work does not exceed three days per week with the same tax-payer.
5th. Servants employed by the day or by the week, living at home and serving several families or persons living by themselves.
6th. Guardians, male or female, of houses during the absence of their masters.
7th. Workmen or workwomen employed in the exercise of professions or trades, living or not with their employers, provided they are exclusively employed [Page 674] at their trades, and not employed at the same time in personal or household service.
8th. And, finally, all journeymen and apprentices and day laborers, who perform no domestic service, such as journeymen or apprentice carpenters, masons, painters, &c, &c.—(Law of June 28, 1822.)
The tax is not collected under the 6th basis, for horses exclusively employed for agriculture, manufactories, mills, professions or trades, without ever serving for the uses indicated for those subjected to the tax, nor for the horses of ecclesiastics in the rural villages; nor for the horses of those in military or other public service, when within the number determined by the regulations, in so far as they do not serve for other uses than those indicated in the regulations.— (Law of June 28, 1822.)
Besides the preceding exemptions, the art. 49 (which I quote entire) of the law of June 28, 1722, has the following:
In addition to the exemptions stipulated to the preceding articles, in conformity to the law of July 12, 1821, there shall be granted in villages whose population in the agglomeration of houses, or within the limits of the town, village, or hamlet, shall be more than 10,000 souls, a partial exemption of the personal tax upon the following basis, to wit:
In towns of from 10,000 to 25,000 inhabitants.—“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 42.40 francs ($8 48) and over, but below 53 francs, ($10 60,) the total amount of the tax under the 2d, 3d, and 4th bases.
“For those occupying a building or dwelling whose annual rent or value is 53 francs ($10 60) and over, but under 63.60 francs, ($12 72,) one-half of the tax under the first four bases.
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 63.60 francs and over, but under 74.20 francs, ($14 84,) a quarter of the amount of tax under the four first bases.
In towns of 25,000 to 50,000 inhabitants.—“For those occupyinga dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 42.40 francs and over, but under 53 francs, ($10 60,) the total amount of the tax under the four first bases.
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 53 francs and over, but under 63.60 francs, ($12 72,) the total amount of tax under the 2d, 3d, and 4th bases.
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 63.60 francs and over, but under 74.20 francs, ($14 80,) the half of the tax under the four first bases.
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 74.20 francs and over, but under 84.80 francs, ($16 96,) one-quarter of the taxes under the four first bases.”
In towns from 50,000 to 75,000 inhabitants.—“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 42.40 francs and over, but under 63.60 francs, ($12 72,) the whole of the tax under the four first bases.
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 63.60 francs and over, but under 74.20 francs, ($14 80,) the whole of the tax under the 2d, 3d, and 4th bases.
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 74.20 francs and over, but under 84.80 francs, ($16 96,) one-half of the amount of the tax under the four first bases.
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 84.80 francs and over, but under 95.40 francs, ($19 08,) one-quarter of the amount of the tax under the four first bases.”
For towns over 75,000 inhabitants.—“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 42.40 francs and over, but under 63.60 francs, ($12 72,) the total amount of tax under the four first bases.[Page 675]
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 63.60 francs and over, but under 84.80 francs, ($16 96,) the total amount of tax under the 2d, 3d, and 4th bases.
“For those occupying a house or dwelling of an annual rent or value of 84.80 francs and over, but under 95.40 francs, ($19 08,) one-half of the amount of the tax under the four first bases.
“For those occupying a dwelling or building of an annual rent or value of 95.40 francs and over, but under 106 francs, one-quarter of the amount of the tax under the four first bases.”
Article 50. Those liable to taxes, to whom a partial exemption of the personal tax is accorded under the four first bases, in conformity with the preceding article, shall have the privilege of liberating themselves by purchase from the remainder of the tax.
“This purchase is fixed in such cases at 8 per cent, of the gross annual value for those who shall have obtained remission of one-half, and at 12 per cent, of the same value for those to whom shall have been accorded exemption of one-quarter of said tax.”
The product of the personal tax, as it figures upon the budget of 1862, is 1,910,000 francs. To this must be added 10 centimes additional and extraordinary centimes, or per cent., making the whole amount 2,101,000 francs.
The number of tax-payers under this head was, in 1861, 402,115.
3. Tax on licenses, (“Droit de Patente.”)—This tax originated in the law of May 21, 1819, when Belgium was a part of Holland. The law lays down the principle that no person can exercise in his name any profession, commerce, trade, industry, or traffic not exempted by law, without being provided with a patent, (or license,) and with this restriction, that every one in the exercise of his calling should conform himself to the regulations of the general and local police. The law then names the professions or callings not subjected to the patente, the amount of the tax, the mode of classing professions not especially designated by the law, the classification of those subject to the tax, the professions which subject each partner or associate to the tax, and those which are subjected to a single tax even when carried on by a company.
As has been seen, the bases of this tax are the professions, traffic, and trade or occupation followed. The tax varies according to the degree of importance of each of these professions in itself, and then according to the importance of the business of each tax-payer in the divers categories. The law names 495 professions or trades, divided into 15 lists, and whose classification is regulated, some with certain exceptions mentioned further on, according to two distinct tariffs.
The tariff A, applicable to all towns and villages, comprehends the professions, trades, traffic, and occupations upon the exercise of which, more or less, the population has no influence.
The tariff B, applicable to other professions and callings, varies in six different degrees according to the rank assigned to each locality.
The tariff A covers 17 classes and each of 6 series. The tariff B, 14 classes.
The most elevated tax under this license law is $84 60, and the lowest is 21 cents.
The only exception to this rule is for peddlers and foreign packmen, whose tax may amount to $160 40, (double tax of the first class of tariff A;) for joint stock companies, whose tax is fixed at 1 3-4 per cent, of the annual dividend; for flouring mills, or those grinding rye, barley, rapeseed, &c., whose tax, based upon the annual rent or value, is 2 to 4 per cent.; and for the undertaker (entre preneur) of plays, &c, whose tax is regulated according to special bases, (price and number of places, &c.)
The general law of 21 May, 1819, has been modified—
1st. By the law of 6 April, 1823, which subjects the tax to additional [Page 676] centimes, or per cent.; reduces the tariffs A and B; exempts certain professions and trades; lowers to 11/3 per cent, the tax on dividends of joint stock companies, which was 2 per cent.; and gives to the tribunals of correctional police attributions touching all contraventions, in respect of this tax, prosecuted in the name and by the department of receipts.
2d. By the law of 18 June, which regulates the license tax of pedlars. This law owes its origin to the extension which this species of commerce has taken within some time past, and the abuses which had crept in and given rise to urgent complaints on the part of the local traders, those subjected to charges which itinerant traders, for the most part, escaped, and who could only sustain themselves with difficulty against their rivals, who were, in part, foreigners. These complaints increased after the suppression of public vendues by the law of 24 May, 1838, and the introduction of sales by packmen in taverns, coffeehouses, and other localities.
3d. By the law of 19 November, 1842, which diminished the license tax of boatmen, and replaces, by other provisions, the list No. 16, annexed to the law of 6 April, 1823. The law of 19 November, 1842, has been itself modified by that of 28 December, 1858, which reduces by 50 per cent, the license tax of foreign and indigenous boatmen.
4th. Finally, by the law of 22 January, 1849, which exempts certain categories of workmen working alone, reduces the tax in favor of the same artizans who follow their trades with a single workman, and augments by 5 per cent., to compensate for the losses resulting from these modifications, the different taxes of tariffs A and B, with the exclusion of the three last degrees of each of these tariffs.
The same law fixes at one and two-thirds per cent, on the amount of yearly profit the tax on joint stock companies, and determines what is to be understood by “profit.”
Exemptions.—The professions exempted from the license tax by the law of May 21, 1819, are enumerated in article 3 of that law. The exemptions apply especially to persons attached to the service of churches, of the state, of towns, of hospitals, poor-houses, institutions of public charity, &c, &c., to lawyers, masters of post stations, (for travelling by post,) artists, painters, or engravers, &c.; under certain restrictions, to cultivators of the fields, proprietors of mines or minerals; under certain restrictions to sub-schoolmasters and sub-schoolmistresses, to servants, journeymen, workmen, and apprentices working at their master’s house; to day laborers, porters, &c, &c.; to those who prepare or manufacture articles exclusively for their own use, to weavers of flax or hemp who employ not more than two looms, and finally, to a great number of small artisans, the designation of whose occupations would be too long to enumerate.
To these exemptions the law of April 6, 1823, has added the owners of stallions, and the weavers of fabrics of all kinds, when not employing more than two looms.
The law of 19 November, 1842, exempts sixteen categories of proprietors, boatmen, or commanders of vessels afloat.
Finally, as has been shown, the law of 22, 1849, frees from the license tax one hundred and forty-eight professions, when those exercise them alone, or assisted only by their wives and their children.
|The law of the budget of ways and means for this fiscal year estimates the value of the product from licenses at||$730,000|
|But in addition is levied ten additional extraordinary centimes, ten per cent||73,000|
The number of taxpayers under this head, in 1861, was 286,565.[Page 677]
1. Registry tax.—This tax figures in the budget of 1862 for $2,660,000. It is one of the most important sources of revenue, and the legislation concerning it is very complicated. Some general observations are therefore necessary for a clear understanding of the subject. In ordinary parlance, registry (enregistrement) is the inscribing upon a register any act. There are many acts for which this registry is necessary in order to give them date, or as evidence of changes in property which are made by means of such acts. There has, therefore, been instituted a public registry for acts, the recording of which might be useful to the public in general, and in the occasion of such record certain fees are levied. These fees were in the first place the compensation for a service rendered, but became later a regular tax. The levying of certain taxes upon the registry of acts is a very ancient practice, under various names. At the time of the French revolution of 1789, the registry taxes of divers natures which were levied were so numerous and different, owing to the federal regime under which they had grown up, that the court of aides taxes which was charged with all fiscal matters, declared in 1775 that he who wished to pay could never know what he owed, nor he who received what was due. The national assembly abolished at one blow all these taxes by the decree of 5 and 19 December, 1790, and established registry taxes of a uniform character. This decree is the starting point for the legislation of the present time, and forms the basis for it, which is little more than the same system decreed in 1790 with different combinations. After many modifications, the result of experience, this law was definitively replaced by that of 22 Frimaire, an 7, which limited and modified all anterior laws, and forms a system which has continued to this time, saving some modifications, to be mentioned in their proper place.
Nature, extent, and proportion of the registry tax.—This tax constituted at the same time a tax and a compensation. It is on this account that the levying of the tax has always appeared very advantageous and has never given rise to serious complaints. It has been thought, very properly, that as registry was useful to the proprietor, it would not be too onerous to make him pay, under this head, both a compensation and a tax to the State. This has been always recognized from the outset, especially in the preamble of the law of 9 Pluviose, an 4.
The registry taxes are divided into two great categories; the taxes of the one are fixed, that is, they neither augment nor diminish in amount for the same kind of acts, whatever the intrinsic value of these acts; those of the other category are proportional, that is, they vary in proportion to the value of these acts, or the changes of property upon which they are to be levied.—(Article 2 of the law of 19 Frimaire, an 7.
The fixed tax applies to acts, whether civil, judiciary, or extra judiciary, which contain neither obligation, liberation, nor condemnation, collocation or liquidation of moneys or values, nor transmission of property by entail or usufruct of real or personal property.—(Art. 3, same law.)
The proportional tax, on the contrary, is established for the cases excepted by the preceding article; it is based upon values.—(Art. 4 of same law.)
In other words, the fixed tax is levied upon the act itself, without respect to the value of the act, while the proportional tax is based upon the values or amounts which form the object of the act.
It results from this classification of the law that all acts whatsoever are subjected to a registry tax, either fixed or proportional, saving some exceptions designated, by the law itself.
Fixed taxes.—There were at the outset in the law of 22 Frimaire, an 7, and 27 Ventose, an 9, laid at from five cents to five dollars.
It would be too long to give the entire nomenclature of the papers to which [Page 678] the fixed tax applies. Suffice it to say, that by the 2d and 11th articles of the law of 31 May, 1824, and the law of December, 1832, these taxes are now, with three unimportant exceptions, at 81/2 cents, 34 cents, 68 cents, $1 02, $1 69, $3 40, $5 09, and $8 48 cents, without including the 30 additional centimes or per cent., decreed and maintained each year by the law of the budget.
Proportionate taxes.—These taxes were established by the law of 22 Frimaire, an 7, and have been but slightly modified. They vary from 25 centimes (5 cents) in the 100 francs, ($20,) which is the lowest tax, to $1 in $20, or 5 per cent., which is the highest rate, not including the additional centimes which were fixed by the law of 29 December, 1842, at 30, and have since been maintained at that figure. The intermediate taxes are for each 100 francs or 20 dollars, 10 cents, 20 cents, 25 cents, 40 cents, 50 cents, and 80 cents.
By the terms of article 5 of the law of 22 Frimaire, an 7, there are no fractions of centimes (2 mills) in the payment of the proportional tax; when a fraction of a sum does not produce less than one centime of tax, the centime is nevertheless levied.
Secondly.” The levying of the proportional tax is not upon the sum mentioned in the act, but according to a scale established by article 2 of the law of 27 Ventose, an 9, from 20 francs ($4) to 20 francs, inclusive, and without fraction of any kind.
Again, the minimum of the tax, in so far as proportional taxes are concerned, is as for fixed taxes, 8½ cents, (43 centimes.)
It is impossible to give here the different acts upon which the proportional tax is levied; they are mentioned in detail in article 69 of the law of 22 Frimaire, an 7, or in the modifications which it has undergone.
Registry of administrative acts.—A fundamental principle is, that administrative acts subject to registry are subject to the same taxes as those of individuals, saving exceptions established by law. Acts enregistered in debit. This consists in enregistering, but on credit, so that the tax is only paid later, when it is known from whom it is due, and if it is due.
According to article 70 of the law of 22 Frimaire, an 7, all acts and reports (proces verbau) of police in connexion with “repressive” police shall be registered on credit; to be collected after sentence, at the expense of the person condemned. The royal orders of 19 January, 1815, has substituted for the article 70, cited above, another mode which amounts to the same thing in fact. The provisions of this order do not, however, concern summonses of witnesses made on the demand of the accused. Correctional or simple police matters are not to be confounded with those touching the collection of imposts and revenues of the state, which, although within the jurisdiction of the correctional tribunals, are, nevertheless, neither originated nor are prosecuted on the initiative of officers of justice, but by a branch of administration in its own interest. In such cases the registry is obligatory, and cannot be made on credit. There are several other cases where the registry is made on credit, but they are of secondary importance and their enumeration would be too long.
Acts whose registry is gratuitous.—Article 70 of the law of 22 Frimaire, an 7, the laws of 8 March, 1810, and of 17 April, 1835, and many other laws, orders, or decisions, designate cases where the registry must be gratuitous. These are especially:
Acquisitions and exchanges made by the state, the division of property between it and individuals, and all other acts made touching such subjects.
Summonses, &c, having for object the collection of taxes and all sums whatsoever due to the state, even local taxes, when a tax is of $5 and under, or taxes and dues not exceeding a total of $5.
Acts, judgments, and orders touching expropriation on account of public utility and in favor of the state, province, or town, and of individuals, under certain restrictions.[Page 679]
Acts being bonds or securities of public officers connected with the treasury, and for the faithful performance of their trusts; the changes in rents or consols, due by towns, and not inscribed upon the “great book” of the public debt of Belgium, when they have not been paid at the epochs specified during the last three years, which fact must be proved.
“Acts of notoriety,” judgment of homologation, (official judgment,) certified copies and papers from registers, and documents necessary to contract marriage to a person whose indigence is satisfactorily shown, &c, &c, &c.
Acts which are exempted from registry.—The law of 22 Frimaire, an 7, and the subsequent laws and divisions, mention acts exempted from the formality of registry. No exemptions are permitted other than those formally indicated, nor can any exemption be permitted by analogy or by extension.
The following are more particularly exempted:
The acts of the legislative bodies and of the government.
The acts of public administrations not comprised in articles 68 and 69 of the law of the 22 Frimaire, an 7.
Acts giving promise of fidelity to the constitution by different public functionaries, &;c.
Oaths taken, even on taking office, of ministers, councellors of courts, judges, attorney general, and other magistrates, of justices, governors, commissaries of districts, deputies of the provincial bodies, burgomasters, echevins, (aldermen,) commissaries of police, officers of the army and of the militia, (garde civigne,) professors of universities, and members of the jury of examination, and, finally, officers of police at railroad stations.
Deliberations touching nomination by the villages for rural police, (gardes champetres.)
The specifications drawn up by the engineer of roads and bridges for proposals for works upon the public roads.
Reports which are known in the marine under the name of potils rapports.
Sales of sea fish publicly made in the markets.
Copies of royal orders and deliberations of consultative bodies authorizing the administration of villages, hospitals, and other public establishments to sell their property, or to alienate or hypothecate it.
Inscriptions upon the great book of the public debt, their transfer and mutations, (changes,) receipts for interest paid upon them, and all obligations of the public debt inscribed or to be inscribed definitely.
Inscriptions, orders, and drafts upon the national treasury or its branches, their indorsements or receipts.
Receipts for taxes, dues, debts, and revenue paid to the state; those for local charges; those of functionaries and employers’ salaries by the treasury, in so far as they concern their salaries and emoluments.
Orders for discharge or reduction, abatement, or remission of taxes, the receipts relative thereto, lists, copies, &c, of the same character.
Receipts delivered to the collector and receiver of the public revenues and of local taxes, and the accounts of receipts or of public administration.
Certificates of birth, interment, and marriage received by civil officers, and certified copies of the same made and delivered.
All acts, reports, and judgments concerning general police or that of public safety, &c.
Cedules, memorandums for appeal to the bureau of conciliation, except the tax for summons.
The legalizations of signatures of public officers, the affirmations to reports of employes, guards, and agents salaried by the state, made in the exercise of their functions.
Engagements, enlistments, &c, in the army or navy, and all other acts of either of those departments not included in the foregoing articles.[Page 680]
Passports delivered by the public authorities; bills of exchange drawn from one place on another, those coming from foreign countries; indorsements and receipts of the same, and bills or notes to order, or other negociable paper; cedules (memorandums) to cite persons either before the justice of peace, or the bureau of conciliation.
Acts, other than notarial, having solely for object the liquidation of the public debt, and in so far as they serve for the operations of liquidation, as well as the acts of liquidating administrations, and agents relative to the same; acts of recourse in copation (appeal) in criminal matters; the deliberations of the chambers of notaries, and the documents relative to the same.
Reports of sales made by the monts de piete and public pawnbrokers’ establishments, and all acts relative thereto; acts and reports relative to criminal procedures, and those of correctional, or in simple police.
Certificates of life, or of deliverance to debtors on the rentes, or pensioners of the State; receipts of furnishers; workmen; masters of schools, and others of the same nature, produced by an accounting officer as vouchers.
Certificates to be produced in order to be exempted from service in the militia; expenses given in the current accounts of merchants; bills, receipts, obligations, certificates, or bonds resulting from loans opened for account of foreign powers or foreigners.
All claims, acts and powers in appeal, in electoral matters.
Acts, judgments and other documents relative to prosecutions suits before the council of prudhommes (council of masters and workmen) solely.
2. Next in order, in this category, comes the tax on mortgages, (“Droit sur hypotheques”)
The amount of tax collected under this head, according to the budget for this year is, including the 25 per cent, additional, $485,000.
Mortgages, or hypotheques, are liens upon real estate in security for the payment of obligations, or the guarantee for the due payment of a service, assuring the creditor, in whose favor they are, a preference upon the price of the property.—(See Art. 2092 to 2095, and 2114 of the Code Civil, and the law of 16 December, 1851, touching the revision of the mortgage system.) As a general rule, these privileges or mortgages do not have effect, save in so far as they are made public—(Art. 2106 to 2113, and 2134 to 2145 of Code Civil, law of 15 September, 1807; of 15 May, 1846, and of 16 December, 1851.)
From this principle, that they have effect only in so far as they are made public, is derived what is called the conservation (registration) of mortgages, and to this end, a public officer, called “conservator (registrar) of mortgages” is employed, charged with the duty of inscribing upon a special register mortgages, preferency, or liens; to transcribe upon another register acts of transmission of property; to erase, when there is occasion, existing “inscriptions,” (entries;) to deliver copies of acts inscribed upon the registers, and of encumbrances upon properties; and finally, to give certificates in case of property being unencumbered, that no encumberance exists.
These divers acts of the conservator (registrar) of mortgages give rise to certain fees which are levied as they are performed in favor of the treasury and of the conservator. The fees in favor of the treasury are proportionate; those which the law allows to the conservator are fixed, and are the emoluments of his office paid to him by the parties interested.
The establishment of this tax dates back to the origin of mortgages, which is very ancient. The legislation touching this subject has often varied. The laws which now form the bases of the tax are still those of 9 and 21 Ventose, an 7.
Article 19 of this law provides that, in conformity to the law of Vendemaire, an 6, a tax shall be levied upon the inscription (entry) of mortgages, and upon the transcription (registry) of acts containing sales or transfer of real estate, and [Page 681] after this the law has one chapter devoted to the tax on inscription, and another to the tax on transcription.
Tax on Inscription, (recording of mortgages.)—This tax is laid in article 20 of the law of 21 Ventose, an 7, at one-tenth per cent, upon the capital of the debts due posterior to the promulgation of the law of 11 Brumaire preceding.
This tax, at first modified by the law of 6 Messidor, an 7, was re-established by the law of 3d January, 1824, the first article of which says: “The tax on registry of mortgages, and the renewal of the same, is fixed for all debts, whatever their date, at one florin (forty cents) for one thousand florins of the amount of the debt.” To this is to be added, however, the twenty-five per cent, or centimes additional, provided for by the law of the budget, The law provides that the proportional fees or tax of registry of greffe, (clerks,) and of mortgages, shall be from twenty florins (four dollars) to twenty francs, inclusively, and without fractions.
The tax is to be paid upon the amount of every mortgage debt whose inscription is required in order to secure its preservation, excepting in the cases provided for by law. Article 21 of the law 21 Ventose, an 7, provides that there shall be paid but a single tax on inscription (entry) for each debt, whatever may be the number of creditors or debtors. Article 22 of the same law provides that if there is record of the same mortgage in several bureaus the whole tax shall be collected in the first bureau, and in the other bureaus for each of the other inscriptions, (entries.) No other fee shall be levied than for the service of the clerk.
By the law of 6 Messidor, an 7, inscriptions of an indefinite character are not subjected to the tax.
There are still other provisions touching the tax on mortgages, but they are too extended for mention here.
Tax on transcription or registry of deeds or acts of sale, transfer, or change in real estate.—This tax, in the first place, was fixed by the law of 9 Vendemaire, an 6, at one and one-half per cent, upon the amount of the transaction, and was maintained by the law of 21 Ventose, an 7, article 25, which is as follows:
“The tax upon the transcription of acts bearing changes in real estate shall be one and one-half per cent, of the amount of the same, in accordance with the settlement at the registry.”
In other words, the sum which has served as a basis for levying the tax for inscription serves equally as a basis for collecting the tax for transcription. The provisions of article 25 have been considerably modified in other respects. In the first place, under the law of 21 Ventose, an 7, the transcription of sales or transfers of real estate was optional; the law of 3 January, 1824, has made it obligatory for all changes in real property. This law was perfected by that of 18 December, 1851, article 30. Article 2 of the law of 3 January, 1824, had reduced the tax on transcriptions, recording deeds, &c, one-half per cent., but by a law of 30 March, 1841, it was raised to one per cent., independently of the additional centimes which the budget fixes now at twenty-five per cent. The tax on transcription, like that on inscription, is upon sums of four dollars to four dollars, inclusively, without fractions.
The law has still some further provisions, which are of but secondary importance, relative to the tax on transcriptions. It designates also those few transcriptions which are gratuitous, save payment of the stamp and the clerk’s fees, as well as some few upon which, exceptionally, a fixed tax is levied; finally, it fixes the fees to be paid the conservator for his services.
3. Greffe, (clerk’s office.)—The product of this tax according to the budget of 1862, is $50,000.
By greffe is understood a public office where are preserved for reference, if desired, the minutes, registers, and other acts of a jurisdiction.[Page 682]
The greffler (clerk) who has charge of this office is, moreover, required to draw up and to record acts relative to the jurisdiction, to give certified copies when desired, and to receive certain declarations which the law provides for and authorizes.
These divers operations give rise to expenses which are called droits de greffe, (clerk’s fees.) These fees are, in fact, a tax, and are paid into the treasury after deducting a part which the law allows for the perquisites of the greffler, (clerk,) in addition to his salary. Like many other fees, these, under the old regime, formed part of the revenue of the crown. They became a branch of the public revenue of the state after the French revolution. They were soon after suppressed by the laws of 5 and 19 December, 1790, and 21 December.
A law of 21 Ventose, an 7, re-established this tax in favor of the state in all civil and commercial tribunals, and it is at this day the basis for its collection. The law of 22 Prairial, an 7, regulated this tax in the event of voluntary sale or voluntary expropriation. A decree of 12 July, 1808, made a new classification of the droits de greffe, of those of drawing up papers, or recording, which were to be levied on the basis laid down in the two laws before cited, viz: of 21 Ventose and 22 Prairial, an 7.
This tax, which is upon acts emanating from or in the jurisdiction of the civil and commercial tribunals, is not levied upon acts in connexion with the criminal, correctional, or police tribunals, the fees for which, established by law of 18 June, 1811, are solely the remuneration of the clerks of the court.
There are three kinds of droits de greffe, (clerk’s fees,) properly so-called, that is, of commercial or civil attributions, to wit, the enrolling, (droit de mise an role,) the drawing up and recording, (droit de reduction et de transcription,) and the copying, (droit d’expedition.)
Enrolling fees.—These are levied when inscribed upon the rolls of each cause, as is provided in the law of 21 Ventose, article 3, as follows: The fees for enrolling are, the dues for forming and keeping the rolls, and the inscribing of each cause upon the roll to which it belongs. This fee shall be in the civil tribunals 5 francs, ($1,) on appeals from the civil and commercial tribunals; three francs, (60 cents,) for cases in first resort or on appeal from justice of the peace; and one and a half franc, (30 cents,) for summary or provisory cases—in the tribunal of commerce this shall be also one and a half franc; the whole without prejudice to the fees of the sheriff, (hussier,) which shall be 25 centimes, (5 cents,) for each cause entered on the docket. The fee for enrolment can only be collected once; in case of taking from the docket it shall be replaced gratuitously at the end of the rolls, and mention of the same shall be made; the use of placets to call cases is prohibited; they can only be called from the rolls, and in the order of inscription.
In fixing the tariff of this tax the preceding provisions are confirmed with the laws of 31 March, 1824, 30 December, 1833, and 29 December, 1842. The first provides that the fees, fines, stamp, registry, record, or de greffe, whose amount is named in francs or livres by existing laws, shall be at 50 centimes (10 cents) for every franc or livre, and so in proportion for less sums; and the second provides that until otherwise provided a florin of Holland shall, when it appears in the laws bearing relation to these taxes, be considered of two francs each, with 6 per cent, additional for monetary difference; and the last of the above named laws provides that the additional centimes or increased per cent. shall be 30 instead of 26.
Tax for drawing up and recording.—This tax is applied to acts named in the code of civil procedure and the code civil. To avoid all misapprehension as to these acts a decree of 12 July, 1808, enumerates them. According to this decree they are either proportional or fixed, and the amount of tax varies according to their character, and is modified by the laws of 31 May, 1824, of 30 December, 1832, and 29 December, 1842. As was shown with respect to the [Page 683] tax on the roll or docket, the law afterwards indicates in what cases proportional, and in what fixed dues are to be levied.
Tax for drafting papers.—The tax for drafting judgments and all other acts made and deposited at the greffe, (clerk’s office,) established by the law of 21 Ventose, an 7, was maintained by article 5 of the decree of 12 July, 1808.
The taxes for copies are of three kinds: 40 cents, 25 cents, and 20 cents per roll, according to the nature of the act; but, as was said further back, these have been modified by the laws of 31 May, 1824, of 30 December, 1832, and 29 December, 1842. Clerk’s fees, (droits de greffe,) of the Court of Capation, droits de greffe, are not levied by the Court of Capation in civil affairs in virtue of the law of 21 Ventose, an 7, but by an anterior regulation of 12 September, 1739. The law further determines affairs exempted from this tax as well as the emoluments of the clerks of the courts, but the detail is unnecessary here.
4. Inheritances.—The amount of this tax appears by the budget for this year to be $2,080,000.
The tax upon the transmission of real and personal property is a very ancient one. In the early Roman law it was one-twentieth or 5 per cent, of the value of every testimentary inheritance which did not come from a near relative. This was afterwards increased to 10 per cent., and reduced again to 5 per cent, under the Emperor Constantine. In the middle ages the feudal seigneurs claimed at the death of their vassals dues of the same character, which varied according to localities, and was originally 1/100 part or 1 per cent, of the inheritance. Another tax, under the title of inventory or division dues, was also collected upon successions in direct line.
After the French revolution the law of 15th and 19th December, 1790, laid down, in the first place, the principle totally different from the bases of previous legislation on the subject, inasmuch as the whole social basis was changed, that every transmutation of property, real or personal, whether by testament or by deed, should be subjected to registry, and on account of this formality a tax should be levied, the amount of which should vary according to the nature of the acts and the object of the transmission.
The law of 15 and 19 December, 1790, is purely fiscal, reaching all real and personal property every time it changes hands, by death or otherwise. It was successively modified by the laws of 14 Thermidor, an 4; 9 Ventose, an 6; 11 Brumaire, an 7; and finally, by that of 22 Frimaire, an 7, which definitely replaces all anterior legislation on the subject, and is the same law previously cited as providing for the taxes on registry, &c. All its provisions, however, relative to the tax on successions have been abrogated and replaced in Belgium by the law of 27 December, 1817, and that of 17 December, 1851; outline of the law of 27 December, 1817. To the taxes on changes of property caused by decrease, “mutations par deces,” an expression which, in the law of 22 Frimaire, an 7, embraces all inheritances indiscriminately, the law of 27 December, 1817, has established two new expressions, which must not be confounded: 1st, it establishes a tax on inheritances; and 2d, a tax on “mutations par décès,” or changes of property caused by death.— (Article 1.) All this is received or acquired by inheritance of any person residing in the kingdom, is subjected to the tax on inheritances. The value of real estate situate in the kingdom, received or acquired in possession or usufruct by the death of any person not reputed an inhabitant, (that is, who has his domicile or place of business in another country,) is subjected to the tax on “mutations par décès.” These two taxes are regulated upon different bases.
The most characteristic feature of the law of 27th December, 1817, is, that it exempts from the inheritance tax successions in direct line, but the exemption is not given in case of mutations.
A similar exemption is granted to all that is received or acquired by husband [Page 684] or wife leaving one or two children born from their marriage, or from their descendants, or usufruct by the surviving husband or wife, or pension or periodical payment, if by the decease of the testator the children, issue of a former marriage, or their descendants, have acquired the property or are charged with the pension or periodical stipend.—(Article 24.)
These provisions, it will be seen further on, have been modified by the law of 17 December, 1851, which levies the tax upon inheritance in direct line, or between husband and wife.
Succession in direct line.—According to the law of 17 December, 1851, “There shall be levied a mutation tax, to be paid by the inheritors, legatees, or those receiving in free gift, who succeed in direct line, ascending or descending, from an inhabitant of the kingdom; and in the cases provided by Nos. 2 and 3 of article 24 of the law of 27 December, 1817, to be paid by the surviving husband or wife.”—(Article 1.)
“This tax shall be levied exclusively upon the value of the real estate situate. in the kingdom, and the rentes and dues hypothecated on real estate in Belgium, deduction being made of the mortgages encumbering the property subjected to the tax.”—(Article 2.)
Articles 3 provides for the measures to be adopted for the valuation of real estate.
Article 4. The tax is fixed at one per cent, upon what is inherited in possession, and one-half if in usufruct only.
Article 5. Exempts inheritances when the portion for each heir or legatee or of the surviving husband or wife does not exceed, after deducting debts, $200.
Inheritances by an adopted child or his descendants.—Before the law of 17 December, 1851, inheritances received by adopted children or their descendants were exempted from all tax. Adoption was a means of eluding the tax on inheritances, those adopted being, by a fiction of the civil law, assimilated to legitimate children who were exempted. In re-establishing the tax on successions in direct line in the law of 1851 this omission was corrected.
Article 6 of this law provides that the tax on successions and that of mutations shall be respectively levied, according to the bases established by the law of 27 December, 1817, and by the present law, upon the total value of all that may be received or acquired by the adopted child or his descendants in the inheritances from him; and by article 9 of the same law the tax to be paid by the adopted child or his descendants is fixed at 6 per cent, if an inhabitant of the kingdom.
Such successions are exempt from tax if the total amount, after deducting debts, does not exceed $127.—(Article 6, law of 17 December, 1851, and article 24, law of 27 December, 1817.)
Inheritances from husband or wife.—Article 17 of the law of 27 December, 1819, provides that on inheritances from husband or wife the tax shall be four per cent., saving exceptions established by article 24, which have in turn been replaced by a graduated tax of from one-half to one per cent; one-half, or two per cent., is paid for property inherited in entail.
The law of 17 December has also introduced two new provisions, which are contained in article 7, as follows: “ The surviving spouse who is not subject by marriage contract to the regulations touching donations, and to whom is given aliatonement, more than one-half of the common fortune shall be assimilated in the collection of the taxes upon inheritances and mutations par décès to the surviving spouse, who, in the absence of a derogation or equal division of the common property, receives the whole or part of the portion of the spouse, in virtue of a gift or testamentary provision.
“The husband or his heir shall be equally reputed in the collection of the tax as having received, in free gift, the portion which they gain by the renunciation, [Page 685] of the wife or her heirs, of the property existing at the dissolution of the marriage.”
An exemption is granted of the taxes laid down in article 17 of the law of 27 December, 1817, if the total value of the inheritance, after deducting the debts, does not exceed $127.
Exemption of the tax of one-half and of one per cent., established by the law of 17 December, 1851, is also given, when the share of the surviving husband or wife does not exceed $200 after deduction of debts.
Inheritance in collateral line, or where there is no relationship.—By the terms of article 17 of the law of 27 December, 1817, the following tax shall be levied on property inherited or acquired in collateral line, or where there is no relationship: Four per cent., between brothers and sisters, on what would have been acquired ab intestate and ten per cent, upon all above that; six per cent., between nephew or niece, or grand nephew or niece, between uncle or aunt, grand uncle or aunt, upon what would have been legally inherited, and ten per cent. on all inherited above that; between all other relatives or persons ten per cent. One-half of this tax only is levied when the property is left in usufruct.
All these provisions are still in vigor, save that article 9 of the law of 17 December, 1851, provides that the tax on inheritances between brother and sister shall be five per cent, upon the part which legally would come without testament, the ten per cent, on the surplus being maintained.
Inheritances by natural children.—By the terms of article 10, of the same law, “Where natural children, in default of other relatives, heirs at law, inherit an estate, they shall be considered, for the application of the law upon the taxes on inheritances, as relations of the twelfth degree.” The only inheritance of any kind whatsoever in Belgium not subjected to tax are those, the total value of which, reduction made of debts, does not exceed $127.
Tax on inheritances of missing persons.—The law of 27 December, 1817, was only applicable to estates in probate by decease legally authenticated. Property left by missing persons could, therefore, be inherited without being subject to tax.
This omission was supplied by the law of 17 December, 1851, which (article 6) provides that the provisions of the first law shall equally apply to the estates of missing persons, and that the tax shall be levied upon their value in accordance with the bases established by these two laws, if the heirs have been in possession in any form; and the taxes previously collected shall be refunded if the demand is made within two years after the day when the existence of the missing person shall have been legally proved.—(Article 8.)
Inheritances by public establishments, (demortmain.)—The law of 27 December, 1817, lays a tax of ten per cent, upon legacies made in favor of hospitals, seminaries, clerical institutions, and others, designated as de main morte.
Exception is only made in the case already mentioned, when the net amount is not over $127.
The law provides for the proceedings to be observed in the declaration and valuation of estates; also touching the debts and dues of the estates, and provides also against frauds.
Tax on mutations.—This tax is upon property situate in the kingdom, inherited or acquired, in fee or entail, by the death of a person not reported to be an inhabitant. This class of inheritance, as has been before remarked, has a distinct basis of taxation. By the terms of article 17 of the law of 17 December, 1817, one per cent., if in fee, and half per cent., if in entail, is to be paid for inheritances in right line; five per cent., if in fee, and two and a half per cent., if in entail, for inheritances in collateral line, or persons of no legal relationship. Article 9 of the law of 17 December, 1851, lays the tax at 5 per cent, for an adopted child or descendant of the same. There are no exceptions to this tax.[Page 686]
1st. Customs.—Under this head falls, 1st, the duties on imports and exports, (goods in transit are exempted;) and, 2d, the tonnage dues. The duties on imports and exports are laid in accordance with article 4 of the general law on customs of 26 August, 1822, upon all articles, goods, and provisions, except those specially exempted by law whenever exported or imported. The tariff has been frequently modified, and quite lately by the treaty concluded with France 1st May, 1861. The exemptions are either in the tariff itself, or in a special law, of which the principal is:
1st. Article 5 of the general law of 26 August, 1822, which exempts from duties munitions of war, provisions, &c., necessary to the maintenance of the army; articles belonging to ambassadors or ministers near to or of foreign powers; horses and carriages employed to journey to or from foreign countries, and baggage of travellers containing personal clothing, when they are not new, and cannot be considered as articles of commerce.
2d. The law of 8 August, 1835, which authorizes the government to grant exemptions of duties on entry for specified articles belonging to foreigners who come to reside in Belgium, or to Belgians returning home after residence in a foreign country, &c, &c.
3d. Article 40 of the law of 4 March, 1846.
By virtue of this article government can permit, under bond or security given, the temporary removal from the public storehouses of goods destined to be improved by manufacturing process in the kingdom.
The average of duties is about 10 per cent, and costs, as before remarked, about 30 per cent, for the collection.
The total amount of duties on imports is estimated for 1862 at $3,068,000, and on exports at $5,000, or together $3,073,000.
Tonnage dues.—Chapter 25 of the general law of 26 August, 1822, regulates this tax. Vessels subjected to this tax are divided into three classes:
1st. All seagoing vessels under Belgian flag to one sole tax of nineteen cents per ton at their first entry, or going out of a Belgian port each year from the 1st January to 31st December, inclusive. They are exempt on all subsequent voyages.
2d. All seagoing vessels under foreign flag, belonging to the inhabitants of a country, kingdom, or port where Belgian ships are not subjected to more elevated or other dues than are their inhabitants. This tax is collected on vessels on their first entry or clearance on the same rate and footing as those of first class.
3d. All seagoing vessels not in the foregoing class. The tax for these is forty-seven and a half cents per ton on every entry, and can eventually be raised by the government.
Exemptions.—The law exempts from tonnage tax—1st. Belgian vessels solely employed in fishing, whether coastwise or at sea. 2d. Belgian vessels going out loaded solely with pig iron or coal, and returning without cargo. 3d. Vessels entering by stress of weather or for orders, or for wintering, where cargo is not broken, and none taken, and where the intention of the captain or owner was not to break cargo. 4th. Pilot boats, or vessels serving solely for pilotage.
The law also provides for the restitution of the tonnage tax on Belgian vessels which have paid the tax at the entry or clearance, but have not, during the year, visited a foreign port.
The estimate of this source of revenue for this year in the budget is $170,000; but it is proposed, if the capitalization of the Scheldt dues is carried out, to renounce this tax in so far as it reaches foreign shipping.[Page 687]
2d. Excise,—Excise is levied upon salt, foreign wines, spirits, Belgian and foreign, beer and vinegar, cane and beet-root sugar, syrups, (glucoses,) and others, not crystalizable sugars. The excise on salt, and foreign wines and spirits, differs from a customs duty, in the fact that, while the latter is paid on the entry of the article, and before consumption, the former need not be immediately collected, credit being permitted on the payments of the former.
Salt—Basis and amount of tax.—The excise on common salt is fixed at $3 40 the one hundred kilos, (two hundred weight.)—(Law of 5 January, 1844, articles 1 and 2.) Refined salt is not subjected to excise, and pays a customs duty of $8 14 the two hundred weight. By the treaty of 1st May, 1861, with France, a diminution of excise of $1 40 is accorded on common sea salt of French manufacture, imported directly by sea under the French or Belgian flag.
Salt water, marking by the Reamur areometer one degree and under to three degrees, pays per hectolitre (twenty-three gallons) from one degree, inclusive, to two degrees, two cents; from two degrees, inclusive, to three degrees, four cents.
Salt water marking more than three degrees is regarded as saumure, (brine,) and taxed according to its density, at sixty-six pounds per hectolitre (twenty-three gallons) of saumure, when at twenty-five degrees of Reamur’s areometer, and in accordance with this basis for inferior degrees of density.
Exemptions—Exemption of excise is accorded for common salt, English salt, and refined French salt, destined for cattle, for the improvement of land, fabrication of fertilizing substances, and the salting of fish derived from Belgian fisheries. It is reduced to four cents the hundred weight for common salt, employed in the manufacture of sulphate of soda.
Drawback.—A drawback of $1 90 the hundred weight is given on refined salt exported in quantities of not less than twenty-five tons.
Product.—The product of the excise on salt, according to the budget of 1862, is $1,020,000. There were, in 1859, two hundred and forty-two salt refineries.
Foreign wines—Basis of the tax.—The excise on foreign wines, established by laws of 27 July, 1822, and 24 December, 1829, was fixed at $6 60 the hectolitre, (twenty-three gallons,) by the law of 24 December, 1853. This law suppressed, at the same time, the additional centimes, as well as the stamp duty upon the bills. The law of 18 July, 1860, which abolished the communall octrois, raised the excise to $8 50 the hectolitre.
Under the treaty of 1st May, 1861, with France, the duty is reduced for wines of French origin to $5 50, after 1 July, 1861; to $5 after 1 January, 1862 ; to $4 50 after 1st July, 1862. Liquors containing more than 21 per cent, to the one hundred degrees are not considered as wines.
By provision of the law of 12 May, 1819, articles 9 and 11, a reduction of the excise can be accorded for the loss of wine when imported in casks. Independently of the excise, foreign wines are subjected to a customs duty, varying from ten cents to forty-eight.
The product of this impost, according to the budget for 1862, is $569,000.
Domestic spirits.—The law of 27 June, 1842, modified by those of 5 March, 1850, of 20 December, 1851, of 9 June, 1853, and 18 July, 1860, provides for and regulates this impost.
Basis.—All the vessels employed in distilling which contain mash, fermented or fermenting liquors, are subjected to the excise, with the exception of distillers’ alembics or coils employed for distilling or rectifying, of condensers of less than three hectolitres (about twenty-three gallons) capacity, consisting of tubes, &c, in which the liquid cannot remain.
Amount.—The amount of excise is fixed for each day’s work, irrespective of the nature of the substance, at forty-nine cents the hectolitre of gross capacity of the vessels above indicated, except in the case of distilling dried fruits, molasses, syrups, or sugar, when it is seventy-seven cents, which amounts to the same upon the product in alcohol.[Page 688]
This tax is on the basis of one renewal per twenty-four hours of substances to be distilled, counting from midnight to midnight, exclusive of Sundays and fete days, if no work for distilling or fermenting is carried on. The distiller who works more rapidly is obliged to pay a supplementary tax proportioned to the increase of work.
Distilling from seed and stone fruits.—The preceding provisions are not applicable to distillers of alcohol from seed or stone fruits, which pay an excise of 37 cents the hectolitre. The excise is calculated upon the quantity of mashed or fermented matter, according to the gross capacity of the vessels employed. If, however, the gross contents of the alembics, multiplied by the number of boilings, shows a quantity superior to that of the mashed or fermented substances, the charge is augmented in proportion.
Rectifiers are exempted from excise.
Agricultural distillers.—A deduction of 15 per cent, on the excise is accorded in the following cases:
1st. When only two sets of utensils are employed; the one serving solely for the boiling, the other solely for the rectification of flegmes, and not exceeding in total capacity 20 hectolitres per 24 hours.
2d. When at least one head of cattle (excepting horses) for each hectolitre and a half of capacity of the vessels subjected to an excise is fed in the yard of the distillery.
3d. When the distiller cultivates for himself within the distance of 5 kilometres, (of 4,971 furlongs,) or about (3 miles) at furthest from the distillery 1 hectare (2 1/2 acres) of land for each hectolitre and a half of capacity of vessels subjected to excise. Moreover, distillers interested, directly or indirectly, in one or more distilleries have no right to the deduction of 15 per cent, if their establishments are distant more than 5 kilometres (3 miles) from each other. By the terms of paragraph 203, article 14, of the law, “the employment of vessels called mashers, or other vessels, utensils, or processes newly introduced, can be authorized by the minister of finance on conditions which he shall determine.”
By virtue of this provision different regulations have been presented by the minister.
1st. To authorize the employment of the mashers with exemption of tax, (28 July, 1854;) 2d, to regulate distillery (a) of beet root juice, (c) of cosittes, of beet root, (c) of raw sugar and molasses, (arrete.)—(Decree of 4 August, 1858, of 23 June, 1859, of 12 February, 1859, and of 5 May, 1855.)
Drawback.—A drawback of $7, equal to the amount of the excise, per hectolitre (about 23 gallons) of spirits of 50 per cent., according to the alcoholater of Gray Lussac; and on a minimum of 10 hectolitres is given on exhalations or deficit in public stores, and a proportionate amount on qualities of inferior or superior strength. This drawback, however, is not allowed to distillers of seed or stone fruit, or to those who have profited by the reduction of 15 per cent, above indicated. In case of forced interruption of his works the distiller is not liable to the excise.
Produce.—The product of this impost for 1862 is placed at $1,812,000 in the budget for this year.
There are 470 distillers in Belgium, one of which only is for seed and stone fruit.
Foreign spirits—Basis and amount of tax.—In conformity with the law of 5 January, 1840, modified by that of 18 July, 1860, alcoholic liquids distilled in foreign countries are subjected to an excise, which is due on importation, and is as follows: (a) upon spirits, rum, arrack, and all alcoholic liquids unmixed with substances which change the degree of strength, $11 80 per hectolitre of 50° or under of the alchometre of Gay Lussac, at the temperature of 15° centigrade; (b) above 50 per cent., at 23 1/2 cents per degree and per hectolitre; (c) upon [Page 689] cordials, liqueurs, without distinction of degree, $12 per hectolitre; the fractions below five-tenths of a degree are not counted; above five-tenths they count as a degree.
For distilled liquors of foreign origin the excise is suppressed and replaced by customs duties. This modification was introduced by the treaty of 1st May, 1861, with France. In addition to the excise, distilled liquors pay a customs duty of from $1 45 to $2 40 per hectolitre. The excise on foreign spirits figures in the budget for 1862 at $31,000. The product of the customs duty on foreign spirits and distilled liquors was $9,000.
Beer and vinegar—Basis of amount of tax.—The excise on beer brewed in the kingdom is fixed by the law of 2d August, 1822, modified by those of 20 December, 1851, and 18 July, 1860, at 80 cents per hectolitre of the contents of the vessels in which the malt is brewed, and for each time they are employed. This applies equally to beer destined for vinegar.
By the taxable capacity of brewing vessels is understood their gross capacity, after deducting for the space occupied by false bottoms, pumps, and mixers placed therein, and generally employed by brewers for manipulating the substances placed therein.
The time for the duration of the work, and that necessary for lighting the fire under the boilers before commencing, is regulated by a tariff annexed to the law.
A drawback of 50 cents the hectolitre for beer of good quality is allowed on exportation, the minimum quantity being 5 hectolitres for beer in cask, and 2 hectolitres for beer in bottles.—(Royal decrees of 17 September, 1846, and 24 December, 1861.)
Vinegar.—Vinegar manufacturers are of three classes, according to the substance employed for making it.—(Article 23 of law of 2 August, 1822.) The first class comprises those making it from beer, or prepared from substances, and in vessels employed for its manufacture, whether purchased from a brewer or prepared for them only, whether in their own brewery or one hired. The second class are those who manufacture their vinegar with a substance commonly called way, which is procured by means of the maceration and fermentation of moutine or flour. The third class includes all manufacturers of vinegar made from other substances than the above. Those, however, making vinegar from apple or pear juice are not’ subjected to any restriction. Articles 24, 25, and 27 of the law of 2 August, 1822, determine the conditions to be fulfilled by vinegar makers of the first class, to obtain, first, credit for the excise upon the beer employed in the manufacture, (article 25;) second, a deduction of ten per cent, on the amount of the excise, (article 26;) and third, a prolongation of credit, (article 49.) The manufacturer who does not fulfil the conditions of these articles, and therefore has not obtained the privileges indicated, is not subjected to any special tax for the conversion of beer into vinegar, but he is prohibited from drawback on exporting it, or placing it in public store, or to deliver it to another manufacturer or merchant with the right of remission of the excise.
The tax on vinegars made by manufacturers of the second class is at the same rate, and levied in the same manner as upon beer, viz: according to the capacity of the boilers, &c., which the manufacturer employs, ten per cent, being deducted from the same.—(Article 30 of law of 2 August, 1822.)
Under the provisions of article 44 of law of 2 August, 1822, the government, by decree of 30 December, 1841, regulated the bases for the tax on vinegar manufacturers of third class, and subjects to taxation all the vessels whatsoever employed in the preparation or acidulation of substances to be converted into vinegar; 18 per cent, reduction can be accorded to this class.
The excise upon vinegar is the same as upon beer. The law of 7 February, 1844, exempts from all tax vinegar manufacturers of the third class who employ substances already subjected to excise.[Page 690]
Fifty cents drawback per hectolitre is granted on exportation or deposit in public store on a minimum quantity of 40 hectolitres.
The product of the tax on beer and vinegar is estimated in the budget for 1862 at 2,712,000 francs.
There were, in 1861, 2,689 brewers in Belgium.
Raw cane and beet-root sugar.—Under the law of 12 July, 1821, foreign sugar only was subjected to duty; the law of 4 April, 1843, for the first time subjected domestic beet-root sugar to tax. Under the treaty of 1861 with France cane and beet-root sugar are subjected to a uniform excise tax of $9 the 200 pounds. Independently of this, raw sugars pay on importation a duty of 24 cents the two hundred weight.
The minimum of the quarterly receipts for sugar excise is fixed by article 2 of law of 27 May, 1861, at $300,000. When the mean of the consumption of three consecutive years, counting from the 1st of July of one year to June 30 of the following, inclusive, is superior to 336,200 hundred weight the minimum of $300,000 is increased by 10,000 francs for every 10,000 hundred weight excess.
At the expiration of the first six months of every year this average is given by royal decree, taking for basis on the one hand, the difference between the quantities of raw sugars declared for consumption, (deduction being made of three per cent, for waste and refining,) and on the other hand, the quantity of sugar exported, or deposited for exportation in public store, with discharge of excise tax. This decree fixes the amount of the minimum to be collected from and after the 1st of July of the current year to the 30th of June following.— (Law of 18 July, 1760, article 10.)
The importation of refined sugar is also included in the calculation. A drawback is allowed to those declaring themselves to be manufacturers or refiners of from four and a half to six dollars per hundred weight, according to kind and quality, the minimum being from two hundred weight to four hundred weight, according to kind and quality. It is also given, but on a minimum quantity of ten hundred weight, for sugars declared for exportation and deposited in the public stores.
The product of the excise on sugar is estimated for 1862 at $1,200,000. There were in 1861 sixty-eight manufacturers of beet-root sugar, and fifty-four sugar refiners.
Refined sugars are not subjected to excise, but pay a duty of importation of 11.40 francs per hundred weight for other than French sugars, which pay six francs per hundred weight.
Under this head are included sources of revenue, which are, in fact, the payment for services rendered by the state. The state has constructed railroads and telegraph lines, which are still in its hands, and are carried on by its officers. The revenues from these lines consequently go into the public treasury. The state also derives revenue from the tolls collected upon the roads, canals, and navigable waters which it keeps up. The post office also is a source of revenue.
The control or guarantee of assay, and stamp of gold and silver articles for the protection of purchasers, the coining of money, the fees for pilots and for light-houses, and other receipts from public establishments, such as prisons, hospitals, &c, are among the items under this head.[Page 691]
|The estimated returns of them for the year 1862 are as follows:|
|Railroads and telegraphs||$5,900,000|
|Tolls on turnpikes, canals, and rivers||920,000|
|Guarantee of gold and silver articles||48,000|
|Mint profit on copper and nickel coins, &c||60,000|
|Other divers receipts given above||500,000|
Stamps.—The stamp or “timbre” has not been included in any of the above categories, and merits especial mention. Like the registry and real estate tax, it owes its origin to the French regime. It consists in the fabrication and marking by a stamp or seal the paper employed in transactions of divers natures in commerce, trade, suits, &c., &c., in fine, all acts to have faith in a court of justice. This paper is sold in certain public bureaus at a price marked on each sheet, and which varies according to the nature of the act.
The product of this tax is estimated in the budget of 1862 at $930,000.
The following are the principles respecting the acts to be subjected to the stamp which have been observed in the legislation on this subject:
1. The stamp is intended to reach, so far as possible, all acts which interest the fortune of individuals.
2. In general the poor and public charitable establishments are exempt from this tax, otherwise it would be impossible for the poor to make the acts necessary for their civil relations. There are many acts which the poor are not able to pay for, but which they are obliged to make by virtue of the law.
3. Acts relative to the exercise of political rights are equally exempt from stamp, for the reason that if they were an expense to the citizen he would be likely to dispense with them.
4. All acts where the stamp would have to be paid by the State itself are exempted.
5. The exemption is made also upon acts, registers, and other documents of individuals, even which the State has an interest to encourage.
The government alone has the right to manufacture stamped paper, and no one can sell it save when specially licensed.
The legislation on this subject is very complicated.
The principal laws still applicable to it are the following: Law of 9 Vendemaire, an 6 ; of 13 Brumaire, and of 6 Prairial, an 7; of 31 May, 1824; of 21 March, 1839; of 25 May and 20 July, 1848; and of 28 December, 1848.
The organic law of this tax is that of 13 Brumaire, an 7, which abrogated all the laws and provisions of other laws respecting the stamp on civil and judicial acts and registers, leaving, however, in force the provisions of the law of 9 Vendemaire, an 6, relative to stamp on newspapers, gazettes, or periodical publications, sheet music, placards, and playing cards; but these provisions have been since modified in Belgium.
This law of 13 Brumaire is, therefore, the corner stone of the whole system of stamp duties. The law of 25 May, 1848, abrogated the stamp upon journals and periodicals.
There are two kinds of stamps. The stamp on dimension, the amount of which depends on the size or dimension of the paper, and the proportional stamp, which is in proportion to the sum mentioned in the act, and without reference to the size of the paper.—(Law of 13 Brumaire, article 2.) [Page 692] Proportionate stamp.—This stamp varies according to the nature of the acts, which will be given in detail.
Commercial paper.—The stamp on negotiable or commercial paper, on bills and obligations not negotiable; on drafts in time, or from place to place is, according to the law of 20 July, 1848, as follows:
For $40 and under, 2 cents; more than $40 and up to $100, 5 cents; from $100 to $200, 10 cents; from $200 to $400, 20 cents; and so on at the rate of 10 cents for every $200, without fractions.
Cheques.—The stamp on cheques, bills to bearer or stocks, or any other paper on unlimited time or payable five years after issue is, according to the law of 21 March, 1839, (article 1,) as follows:
From $100 and under, 10 cents; over $100 and up to $200, 20 cents; over $200 and up to $400, 40 cents; and so on, at the rate of 20 cents the $200, without fractions.
The exemptions from the stamp under this head are, interest on dividend coupons upon the said bonds, bills and obligations or shares, bonds, shares, and coupons attached, resulting from loans made by provinces or communes.
The law of 20 July, 1848, (article 2,) has reduced to two mills the stamp on cheques not exceeding $1 in amount
Stamp on coupons.—A law of 22 May, 1848, intended to aid the “General Society for Promoting Domestic Manufactures,” permitted the government to authorize a new issue of bank notes by this society; this issue, solely made for the service of the savings bank, could not exceed $4,000,000.
Article 8 of the law directs the government, the proportional amount of coupons of $1 and $4 comprised in the issue, and fixes the stamp for these, of $20 and under, at ⅕ per cent. The same provisions as to stamp have been extended to the coupons of the National Bank.
Stamp upon papers and bonds resulting from loans contracted for foreign countries.—This stamp was instituted by article 27th of the law of 31 May, 1824, upon paper, receipts, bonds, certificates, or shares resulting from loans opened in Belgium for account of foreigners; but it has been modified as follows by law of 22d March, 1839, (article 1, No. 3.) When the sum is $100 and under, the stamp is 30 cents; when the sum is $200 and over, the stamp is 60 cents, and so on progressively at the rate of 60 cents for every $200, without fractions. Subject to these provisions, the authorizations of the law of 31 May, 1824, (article 26,) remain in force, which are as follows: All bankers and commercial houses in the kingdom shall be allowed to open loans for account of foreign powers or foreigners generally, and to deliver receipts, bonds, certificates, or other documents showing participation or interest in such loans, whether already existing or to be opened later, or to be in inscriptions upon the public debt of foreign powers, banks, or establishments, our authorization being first to be asked.
“We reserve to ourselves in granting this authorization to take, if we judge necessary, measures to be informed of the amount and number of obligations or certificates to be issued.”
Stamp upon dimensions of paper.—As was already stated, this stamp is by the law of 13 Brumaire, an 7, according to the dimensions of the paper employed, which are fixed by law, (article 3 ;) law of 13 Brumaire, an 7, as follows: “Papers destined for stamp, which shall be sold by the regie,” shall be manufactured of the sizes given in the following table:[Page 693]
|Medium, (half of large register)||0.2973||0.4204||0.1250|
|Small, (half of folio)||0.2500||0.3536||0.0884|
|Half sheet, (half of small)||0.2500||0.1768||0.0442|
The law of 21 March, 1839, adds still another size, which is just half of the smallest given above. The amount of this stamp, fixed in the first place by the law of 13 Brumaire, an 7, modified afterwards by that of 31 May, 1824, was finally regulated as follows by the law of 21 March, 1839:
|The large register sheet||40||cents.|
|And if for mortgages||50||“|
|The folio sheet||32||“|
|The half sheet of small||9||“|
“A stamp shall be made for the quarter sheet, (half of the half sheet of small paper,) which shall be five cents.” This paper can only serve for receipts, and is assimilated for all other transactions; to “free” paper, notaries can use paper of less than 18 cents for acts which they preserve note of.
While the government fixes the dimensions of paper which it disposes of, the law does not exclude the use of paper or parchment of different sizes. Article 7, law of 13 Brumaire, an 7, is as follows:
“Citizens who wish to employ paper of other than regulation sizes shall be permitted to have it stamped before using it. Stamps corresponding in amount to the size of this paper shall be employed, but shall be applied on the upper right hand side. If the paper is of different dimensions from that of the regulation paper, the stamp, in so far as relates to the tax for size, shall be paid at the price of the largest size.” This is called the stamp extraordinary.
The number of the acts requiring the dimension stamp is too great to be enumerated here.
There are certain special stamps, as follows:
Passports.—The stamp on passports was provided by the law of 21 March, 1839, (article 3,) at 40 cents for the interior, and $1 60 for passports for foreign parts.
The stamp on permit to have sporting guns is fixed at $6 by the law of 21 March, 1839, (article 3.)
Foreign journals.—The law of 25 May, 1848, suppressed the stamp on journals and periodicals, but p. 2 of article 1 adds that this suppression shall only be applied to journals and periodicals printed in foreign countries, in so far as journals and periodicals printed in Belgium are exempted in those countries. This stamp varies from 1/2 to 1 cent, according to the size of the sheet.
Warrants.—The law of 26 May, 1848, which institutes the system of “warrants,” or titles of possession taken from special registers, fixes the stamp for the same at 60 cents.
Placards.—The stamp for placards is fixed by article 4 of the law of 21 March, 1839, at 1 cent per sheet of 15 decimetres square (about — inches) of surface and under, and for sheets above that at 2; augmentation per 5 decimetres.
Advertisements and notices.—Article 5 of the law of 21 March, 1839, provides that the stamp on advertisements and notices not destined to be placarded shall be:[Page 694]
|For the sheet of 30 decimetres square of surface and over||16||mills.|
|For the half sheet||8||“|
|For the quarter||4||“|
|For the half-quarter, cards, and other small decimetres||2||“|
Since the enforcement of the law of 28 May, 1848, suppressing the stamp on journals and periodicals, advertisements and notices inserted in journals have been exempted from the stamp. A stamp was established on the patente or license of tradesmen by the law of 21 May, 1819, and amounts to 9 cents.
Way bills are also subjected to a stamp of 2 cents, (law of 28 December, 1848.)
In addition to the sources of revenue above given, the state possesses public domains, principally forests, and it renders some services of secondary importance, other than those already indicated, the product of all which amounts to about $1,000,000 annually.
The tax on sales of liquor and tobacco and on mining operations also come within of the categories above given.
The tax on the retail of spirituous liquors was established by law of 1st December, 1859, and is as follows: On retailers of first class, $12 ; on those of second class, $10 ; on the third class, $8; on the fourth class, $6 ; on the fifth class, $4; on the sixth class, $3 ; and on the seventh class, $2 40. The population of a locality is the basis for determining the class under which the retailer falls. The law prohibits the laying additional centimes for the state on the tax, and declares that those shall be considered as retailers, first, who sell or deliver liquors in quantities of five quarts and under. Second, those who, either at home or elsewhere, in any accessible place, sell spirituous liquors for consumption on the spot. The law besides provides for the obligations to be fulfilled by the retailers, the classification in each locality; the formation of the lists and the collection of the tax; the amount in case of cessation of trade; fines and penalties; form of minutes; mode of proceedings against, and finally, the functionaries qualified to seek for and present offences under the law.
The product of this tax is estimated in the budget for this year at $240,000 ; and the number of persons subjected to the tax in 1861, 77,356.
Tux on retailing tobacco.—This tax is provided for in the law of 20 December, 1861, (art. 1,) and is lined as follows:
1st. On any retailer of tobacco in leaf or in powder, or manufactured in any way except in cigars, an annual tax of $3, $2, and $1 40 cents, respectively, for the first, second, and third class of dealers.
2d. On any dealer in cigars, whether he sells tobacco in other forms or not, from $4 80 cents to $19 40, according to the class, of which there are seven, the class, as in the case of the sale of spirituous liquors, depending on population. In villages, however, where the population is inferior to 1,500 souls, the licensed tradesman who only sells segars subsidiorily to his regular business can be classed under the first tariff.
Article 2d of law declares a dealer to be he who, either at home or elsewhere, sells or delivers tobacco directly to the consumer, irrespective of quality.
Article 3d applies to the tobacco dealers most of the provisions of the law touching the sale of spirituous liquors. The produce of the tax is estimated for 1862 at $40,000, and the number of dealers in 1861 was 25,043.
Unlike most countries in Europe, Belgium derives little revenue from tobacco. Owing to its territorial conformation and position, it has been found impracticable to carry out any system of excise on tobacco, the facilities for contraband being such as to make the collection too costly.
The revenue from the mines amounts to $103,000.
By the law of 21 April, 1810, (art. 33,) proprietors of mines must pay to the state a fixed proportionate tax. The fixed tax is according to the extent of the grant, and is $2 annually per square kilometre (2/3 of a mile.) The proportional tax is upon the product of the mines, and is regulated each year by the budget, [Page 695] and is from 2 1/2 to 5 per cent, on the net product, the law, however, permitting owners of mines who desire it to pay a fixed sum yearly.
10 per cent, additional is levied to form a fund to indemnify proprietors of mines who have suffered by losses or accidents; and 5 per cent, additional for expenses of collecting.
The budget of 1861 added 3 per cent, more to this to defray the expenses of making general chart of the mines in Belgium.
The law also provides that the product of this tax shall form a special fund which shall have a separate account at the treasury, and shall be applied to the expenses of the administration of mines, to researches, and the opening of new mines, or the re-establishment of old mines.
About 500 persons or associations are subjected to this tax.
There are still some remaining, but trifling, items which figure in the budget, viz: fines for delinquencies, &c, under the laws respecting taxation and which are estimated for 1862 at $30,000; fines resulting from sentences of the criminal police or civil courts, &c, estimated at $28,000; storage in the public depots of the state, $36,000; extraordinary and incidental receipts, $5,000; and naturalization, which figures for $1,000 in the budget.
This tax is in accordance with the laws of 15 February, 1844. There are two kinds of naturalization admitted by the constitution, viz: The ordinary and the “grand” naturalization. The latter only assimilates the foreigner to the Belgian, and is subjected to a registry tax of $200; the “ordinary” naturalization is taxed $100 for registry. The exemptions are: 1st. Those decorated with the iron cross, and those who took part in the revolution; 2d. Soldiers in service at the time of the promulgation of the law.
Taxation in Belgium, compared with that of neighboring nations, cannot be called excessive. It is undoubtedly open to criticism in some defails, and I can hardly doubt that in the spirit of liberal reform which animates the government and people will receive corresponding modifications. Indirect taxes seem to be out of proportion with direct taxation. I would suppose that a tax like the excise, which falls principally upon the poorer classes, is always unpopular, and costs 20 per cent, for collection, would in time be abrogated in the same liberal spirit which characterized the abrogation of the octroi or local excise, in 1860.
So, too, of the customs duties, which cost over one-third their amount for collection, and requiring about 5,000 employés for less than $3,000,000 gross revenue, and whose abrogation would seem necessary to make Belgium the commercial centre and depot of Europe, for which it is destined, by its position and railroad connexions.
Both these imposts will probably in time be removed, and the sum which they yield could be easily distributed over the real estate tax, which has become by the rise in property much less than when first imposed, and on the personal tax, which does not seem in proportion to the wealth of the country.
Should these reforms be carried out, taxation will fall almost entirely upon property while relieving the people, who will find favorable contrast in comparing their freedom from taxation with the burdens imposed upon the poorer classes in neighboring states, and the revenue system of Belgium will then be entitled to be called the most perfect and simple in Europe.
I enclose herewith the budget for this year, and transmit also various other documents which have mainly served in the compilation of this outline of the revenue system of Belgium, to wit: Code of taxation; customs and excise of Belgium; legislation touching the manufacture of spirits; legislation respecting sugars; general customs tariff; special tariff of duties under the treaty of May, 1861, with France; decree abolishing the excise and taxes known as “octroi.”
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.