Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/762

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740
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the total customs and internal revenue yielded by tobacco during the fiscal year 1895 was about $44,000,000, or sixty-eight cents per capita.

In the United Kingdom the taxes on tobacco, mainly on imports and through the customs, are about $1.30 per capita, and yield an annual revenue of about $50,000,000.

In France the taxes on tobacco are reported at $1.71 per capita, yielding an annual revenue of about $65,000,000. In other European countries the per capita taxes on tobacco are reported as follows: Austria, $1.31; Germany, $1.30; Italy, 94 cents; Hungary, 79 cents.

Were the same ratio of taxation on tobacco as exists to-day in the United Kingdom established in the United States, the annual revenue accruing to the Federal Treasury at the present time would be in excess of $90,000,000. If the rates existing in France were adopted, the annual revenue from this source would be $126,000,000.

Whatever may have been the considerations that prompted in recent years the abatement of this important source of national revenue in the United States, it is certain that they were not based on any sound financial policy, or on any lesson of past experience in respect to the best methods of raising revenue. Taxes on tobacco are taxes on a typical luxury. Their payment is not obligatory, as are the taxes on the essentials of living, on any citizen, but are in the nature of a voluntary assessment on the part of the consumer, on whom the entire burden of the tax ultimately rests, and which payments may be properly regarded as representing his surplus income. They are not obstructive to the development of any other industrial product, and there is no evidence that the highest rate ever assessed under the internal revenue has ever been productive of general discontent on the part of the masses of the American people.

The popular argument that a low rate of tax should be imposed on tobacco, because the burden of it falls mainly and disproportionately upon the poorer classes, has no foundation in fact. If the exact facts could be known, it would probably be found that by far the greater portion of the tax is paid by the well-to-do part of the community, who consume the high grades of tobacco. Again, the revenues of the Federal Government are almost exclusively derived from taxes on commodities which are paid by their consumers; and when any deficiency of needed revenue is occasioned by the reduction or entire abatement of the taxes on any one commodity or class of commodities, the deficiency must be made good by new or increased taxes on other commodities, the consumption of which is often more essential to the poorer classes than the article exempted. Thus, for exam-