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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.- À 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 } 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 al. ready 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 :
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 : l'he large register sheet....
40 cents. And if for mortgages......
50 " The folio sheet.......
32 " The medium...
24 « The small...
18 " The half sheet of small.
“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 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:
For the sheet of 30 decimetres square of surface and over.......... 16 mills. For the half sheet....
..... 8 " For the quarter....... 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, 1818.)
In addition to the sources of revenue above given, the state possesses public domains, principally forests, and it renders some services of secondary import. ance, 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 popu. lation 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.
Tox 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 liqnors, 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 (of a mile.) The proportional tax is upon the product of the mines, and is regulated each year by the budget,
and is from 24 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 details, 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 whieh 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,
H. S. SANFORD. Hon. William H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Sanford. No. 74.]
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, November 19, 1862. SIR : Your despatch of the 12th of May, No. 68, has been submitted to the President. The thrift and sagacity of the people of Belgium are not more universally esteemed than the skill of their government in financial administration. Your very elaborate and complete analysis of their revenue system will be submitted to Congress, and I am sure it will be accepted as a valuable contribution in a branch of knowledge not less important at this crisis than the science of arms itself.
It will please you, and it may correct some errors abroad, when I inform you that our revenue system, so recently established, is excelling the most sanguine expectations of its framers, and that our national credit seems rather to improve than to decline, notwithstanding the vast expenditures which are necessarily made in converting a commercial nation into a self-defensive military and naval power. I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD. HENRY S. SANFORD, Esq., fr., fr., $c., Brussels,