chapter  XVII
Pages 25

UP to 1914 the United Kingdom Tariff was simple and revenue almost its only object. It contained a very few commodities in wide demand. The bulk of all indirect taxes was collected from intoxicating liquors and tobacco. Sugar and tea formed a second line and gave stability to the total yield. The saccharin duty was unimportant but necessary in order to safeguard the yield from the sugar duty. Duties on coffee, cocoa, dried fruits, certain ethers, playing cards, and a few other articles completed the tariff. Customs and excise duties were related so that as nearly as possible the dealers in the various commodities gained no advantage, nor suffered disadvantage because of the tariff. Though the basis for indirect taxation was narrow, it was sufficiently resilient to stand a considerable strain by way of increased rates, before it was likely to show an erratic yield. In fact, the strain it was capable of standing was not realized till the war expenditure forced large increases in rates. Many thought that rates much less than those ultimately ruling would cause the foundation of the tax system to crack. The decision to levy a tax, and the rate to apply, were both decided directly by Parliament, and were included in the annual Finance Act. The germ of future changes was, however, to be found in one or two minor cases, where the Executive could make orders to meet special circumstances.