I notice that there is an amendment down in the name of Deputy Lyons to delete the section. I do not know whether the Deputy moved that amendment or not.
LETTERKENNY URBAN DISTRICT ELECTRIC LIGHTING ORDER, 1926. - FINANCE BILL, 1926—THIRD STAGE (RESUMED).
No, the question will be put from the Chair: "That the section, as amended, stand part of the Bill," and the division on that will be identical with the division on the deletion of the section. The debate also will be identical, so only one question will be put.
I was not treated fairly yesterday. I think I should have been allowed to move my amendment to delete the section before the others were moved to amend the section.
I take it the discussion will cover both. The object of the Minister in proposing this tax, as stated by himself on the occasion of the introduction of his Budget, was to raise the sum of from £150,000 to £200,000. He proposed doing that by instituting a 5 per cent. tax on turn-over on betting transactions on racecourses and otherwise. Now, as far as I can understand, the Minister has come to the conclusion that he will be enabled to secure this sum, approximately at any rate, by the institution of a 5 per cent. tax on what is known as the totalisator, remitting half the proceeds for certain purposes, and decreasing the tax on betting on racecourses from 5 per cent. to 2½ per cent. I have no quarrel with that argument on the part of the Minister, but I venture to say that he will have no more chance of realising £150,000 to £200,000 on his present proposal than he had on his original one. A certain sum of money is devoted to betting. It has not a limitless source. I doubt very much if the whole amount of money expended and paid over on bets in the Saorstát from one end of the year to the other amounts to more than £100,000. I believe that this proposal, just as the original one, will eat up all the original money that goes to betting transactions.
Anyone acquainted with betting knows that though bets are made in seemingly large sums the amount of money that passes is very often small. A person may go to a race-meeting— and certainly those who indulge in heavy betting follow this course—and may have bets of £25, £50, or £100 on various races, and at the end of the day there may not be more than £15 between him and the bookmaker. Most bets of that character are on paper. What is proposed here is not a tax on the actual sum won or lost, but on the turn-over, which is probably contained in the bookmakers' books on paper. I say that the amount of money at the disposal of the public—and by the public I mean all connected with racing—breeders, trainers, bookmakers and the general public—will not exceed £100,000 a year, and that instead of being enabled to secure from £150,000 to £200,000, if the Minister persists in his present proposal, by the end of the financial year he will find that the tax will not pay for itself.
The money expended in racing here nowadays is almost entirely confined to this country. At one time fresh money did come in. People from England and elsewhere bet upon our racecourses, but that is not the case to-day. The crowds of people that used to come here to attend our race meetings have very seriously diminished. Therefore, I submit that this tax would not pay for itself—that the cost of collection will exceed the amount received in revenue; that it will entail the creation of a huge army of officials, that there will, of course, be serious attempts at evasion, that there will necessarily be raids and prosecutions, and that the administrative cost will be such that the proposal of the Minister will not be worth while. As against that, the Minister has had offered to him a net sum of from £80,000 to £100,000—and that is a certainty. He has had the figures given to him. He has told us that he has not had sufficient time as yet to peruse the figures.
Perhaps the Dáil would be somewhat surprised if I detained them for a few moments in showing the amount of the tax that would have to be paid by one class of the public, namely the bookmakers. Supposing a bookmaker bets £10 per race on one day's racing and there were six races that day, he would bet £60 and the tax would be £3; as there are 153 days' racing here, according to the Irish Racing Calendar, he would pay no less than £459 per year under this tax at 5 per cent. Of course the amount would be reduced by half if the tax was so reduced. I say "he would pay," but I do not know whether the bookmaker will pay it or not—I do not know who will have to pay it—whether it is the public or the bookmaker. The question is whether when a person comes to make a bet upon a racecourse, the bookmaker will not endeavour to get that person to pay the tax then and there. I think it will be a rather difficult matter as between the two parties. Take the case of a bookmaker who bets £40 per race; that would be £240 on six races; the tax would be £12 under the original proposal, £6 now, and the sum he would have to pay in the year would be £1,836 at 5 per cent. and £900 odd at 2½ per cent. Then take the case of a bookmaker who bets £100 on each race; six hundred pounds would be the total for six races; the tax would be £30 at 5 per cent., and £15 at 2½ per cent.; the total for the year's racing would be £4,590 at 5 per cent. and half that at 2½ per cent. I could go on showing by increasing amounts the ratio of the sum that would have to be paid. The tax is altogether out of proportion to the amount involved. If it were a question of taxing the profits there would be something to be said for it but, when you come to taxing turn-over, where the money is not really there, where most of it is on paper, and where transactions are conducted principally on credit, it is a different proposition.
This proposal, as it now stands, even as amended, would not only injuriously affect interests connected with racing, such as horse-breeding, training establishments, racecourse companies and bookmakers themselves, but it would also seriously affect certain towns and districts. The Minister thinks that small meetings do not count, and that they should not be held at all. I think small meetings are of the utmost importance, especially in the interests of farmers. It is well known that it is only at these meetings farmers have an opportunity of trying their horses. When these horses show themselves to be of any particular quality the owners can then send them elsewhere or sell them. That is why the horse-breeding industry has been so successful in this country. The tax would not only injure these interests, but it would also injure certain localities. As I said yesterday there was no racing in Tramore in 1905, and it took years for that little seaside resort to recover. People flock there to race meetings, money is spent there, not altogether on the racecourse, and there is a general benefit to the community.
Then take the position of the railways. I understand that last year the Great Southern Railways ran no less than 250 passenger "specials" to race meetings. I am informed that the income derived from that traffic amounted to about £30,000. These "specials" did not go to the Phoenix Park or other large race meetings, which the Minister is not adverse to keeping in existence, but places as far afield as Ballinrobe, Tralee, Thurles, and Tramore. As a result the railway company was able to make this huge sum of money. The number of horses carried is another consideration that should be taken into account. No less than 14,000 horses were conveyed by the railways to and from the various racecourses in this country last year. Is not that of some importance when considering the injury that this tax will be to small race meetings in areas that are more or less rural? When the Minister talks lightly about these race meetings being of no use, and as fixtures at which only "crocks" are run, I would ask him to visit some of them. I would remind him that "Knight of the Wilderness," which was running recently in Thurles, won the Sefton Steeplechase, and is a horse that would sell to-morrow for a large sum of money. That is the class of horse that runs at these local meetings. It indicates a great want of knowledge on the Minister's part to suggest that these race meetings are not the very life blood of the horse-breeding industry in Ireland. I am not complaining because the Minister has not got that knowledge, but I am convinced that if this proposal goes through, even in its present modified form, it will seriously injure the various interests I have enumerated.
I think it is a pity the Minister was not inclined to accept my amendment last night. At any rate, it would be well if he took a little longer to consider the matter and to learn a little more—because he has learned a good deal since he started to investigate the subject—before proceeding. If so, I am convinced that when he has made a thorough investigation, and heard the views of the various interests affected, he will come to the conclusion that I have come to, that this tax is not a practicable one, and that it would be better, in the interests of the fourth greatest industry in this country— horse-breeding—to drop it altogether.
After all that has been said on this question I think the Minister should be convinced of the necessity of dropping the proposal. As the section stands, not only race meetings but every class of sporting gathering where bookmakers attend will be subject to this tax.
Football and hurling?
According to the G.A.A. rules it is illegal for a bookmaker to carry on betting at Gaelic meetings. Deputy Shaw gave the Dáil the views of owners and trainers, as well as those who run stud farms, and also, I presume, the views of the clubs concerned. Deputy Gorey who understands coursing gave the views of those interested in coursing meetings. No Deputy knows more about coursing than Deputy Gorey, who made it clear last night that this tax would wipe out the sport completely. We were expecting to get coursing meetings exempted from entertainment tax but instead of that, this additional tax is proposed. In and around practically every town in Longford and Westmeath labourers, artisans, small farmers and traders keep greyhounds, not for the novelty of keeping them, but as a hobby, and in many cases they are able to make a few pounds each year in this way, so that it forms a part of their income. I know very poor men who keep two or three greyhounds who probably sell five or six pups in the year, and this brings in money to enable them to feed their children. If this proposed tax—I would not agree to 2½ per cent., or to any tax—is inserted in the Bill it will mean doing away completely with this little industry which means a few pounds in the year to many poor men. The Minister has said that coursing is no asset to the State, but coursing gives employment to the men who look after the hounds, and food has to be bought. Every little thing counts, and if this tax is imposed the Minister for Finance will succeed in wiping out the only old Irish sport left. When the Minister retired to rest last night after a hard day's toil I would like to know if his dreams did not turn to the betting tax on coursing, and whether it was, as Deputy Wilson mentioned yesterday, like a fairy godmother coming to him during the night, making it possible for him to realise that this tax would wipe out coursing, once and for all.
I appeal to the Minister at least to exempt from the tax betting on the course, because it would not be able to bear it. If you put 1/- on at 5 to 2 it would take a good deal of calculation to find what amount should be deducted as the State's proportion. At these coursing meetings the great proportion of the bets are only shilling bets. People who attend these meetings have not money.
They should not be there.
Those who have no money require sport as much as those who have, and if you let one class of people have it why not let another, and why deny the right to the poor man to enjoy himself when you give that right to the rich man? If that is to be done the sooner this country becomes Bolshie the better it will be for the workers. I deny the right of any man to refuse the worker the right to enjoy himself. This is the only winter sport left to the worker, and he can put up his greyhound against another, and have the honour of winning or the pleasure of seeing his dog run. It is not the people who can put £100 on a horse who go to coursing meetings. It is the ordinary common man. Deputy Shaw has spoken for the racing people, but as far as coursing is concerned, unless I get some satisfactory explanation as to the Minister's intentions. I will put this to a Division.
While endeavouring to make the best compromise possible, I do not admit, of course, that a 2½ per cent. tax on turn-over is not excessive, and that it will not injure racing. I believe that it will. But if the Minister agrees to refund half the amount collected, the extraction of the money will not be so serious, because it will give the small meetings an opportunity of increasing their stakes, thereby bringing much better horses and larger attendances to them. When I was speaking of a refund of 50 per cent. of the tax last night, I omitted to mention that the Turf Club has been receiving from the British Treasury a very substantial subsidy towards stakes in this country, even since the Treaty was passed, and if they continue to give us this considerable sum surely our own Government should be much more generous. We have a meeting at Kilbeggan, in Westmeath, perhaps one of the smallest in Ireland, but which at the same time is known as the Ascot of Ireland. It is probably one of the most popular meetings in Ireland at present. It was held about a month ago, and two of the horses which ran at it, called Gay Boy and Newsboy, could not be bought for £10,000. The Kilbeggan executive—and I only mention this as an example of all the other meetings of the kind—are not able to give large stakes owing to the amusements tax and because of other expenses, such as having to pay a very large sum for the rent of the racecourse for one day, which I believe comes to something like £100. Therefore, I think that if a reasonable refund was made in a case like that it would improve racing very much indeed, and that is my reason for saying that I will have to be absolutely adamant in regard to my claim for a refund of half the money. If that is not agreed upon, I will be forced to call for a Division. But in view of the fact that many controversial matters are still in abeyance, and that the Minister has stated that he will reconsider the tax on starting-price betting and coursing, I do not think anything would be gained to-day by taking a vote on this. I believe that on fuller investigation the Minister will drop the tax on coursing altogether, will agree to refund for the increase of stakes half the tax collected on racecourses, and reconsider the 5 per cent tax on any turnover. As I said last night, I have no doubt at all that he would get a much larger revenue by charging 2½ per cent. than by charging 5 per cent., because a 2½ per cent. tax would probably allow the present starting price betting to continue, while a 5 per cent. tax would reduce it to about half. I would like to know if there is any possibility of obtaining figures showing what the loss to the Post Office revenue would be if telegrams, telephones and letters in connection with betting were stopped or largely reduced.
I am glad that the Minister is going a considerable distance to meet Deputy Shaw's views, not so much in connection with the improvement of racing as on account of the effect it will have on hunter breeding in Ireland. I do not agree with what the Minister said about old-stagers at local meetings. I believe that the local meetings are of the greatest importance, especially because they help hunter breeding. I do not know much about racing dogs, nor have I any great interest in them, but I believe these coursing matches are a popular form of amusement in the country for people who cannot afford to attend race meetings. For that reason I think they are a healthy form of sport, and I would be sorry to see the Minister take any steps that would injure them.
What has struck me in listening to all these debates is, that we look for grants, and that those of us who are most insistent on getting grants, who boast to the country of having got grants, and believe that we have put the electors under an obligation to us for getting them, do not meet the Minister fairly when he comes to raise the money to meet these grants. We want the grants but we do not want the taxation. We want to have it both ways, and we want it to go to the country that we got people grants and made a valiant fight to save them from paying taxes. I do not think that is the way in which this business should be met. If we want grants we should make up our minds that we will generously meet the taxation. I am not so much concerned with Deputy Johnson's action in this matter, because the Minister knows the distinction as to the incidence of taxation, which is quite a different thing from all the exemption that is claimed.
I think it is only necessary for me to say one word about the argument reiterated by Deputy Redmond: that there is practically no money in racing or in betting, that no new money, or very little, comes into it, that there is a very small pool, and that it is scarcely being fed at all. Deputies will have seen in the newspapers that four hundred bookmakers were willing to pay a licence of £200 per annum if the betting duty were dropped, and it has been suggested that more could be got, that perhaps there would be 500 bookmakers who would be willing to pay £200 per annum. That means that, apart from the small bookmakers who objected to that proposal altogether, there are about five hundred bookmakers in the country who do a substantial business. The expenses of a bookmaker in carrying on his business are fairly heavy. Even the expenses of a bookmaker who does legal betting are fairly heavy, the expenses of travelling to courses and the expenses of clerks and so forth are heavy, and it can hardly be said that bookmakers all live in a state of frugal simplicity, and that a very small income suffices for their personal needs.
Taking all these things into account I should say that each of these five hundred bookmakers, between their own cost of living and their expenses, takes out of racing not than £1,000 per annum, which for these five hundred bookmakers means that £500,000 of new money must be provided each year. I need not pursue the matter at any great length, but there are other draws on the pool which must be met by new money, and I would estimate that the new money per annum that comes into racing is not very far short of £1,000,000, so that when it is suggested that we could not possibly get something like £200,000 I think that is one of those arguments that does not bear investigation.
Has the Minister anything to say with regard to the tax on betting at coursing meetings?
I have nothing further to add.
I assumed that that matter was more or less settled last night, that it was left over for rearrangement and agreement. I do not see any reason for re-opening the matter again to-day on the same question. That is the view I put on the matter.
I beg to move:—
In sub-section (1), paragraph (d), page 11, line 8, to delete the words "the Revenue Commissioners" and substitute the words "Customs and Excise."
This is merely a drafting amendment. The words should have been "officers of the Customs and Excise" rather than "officers of the Revenue Commissioners."
I beg to move:—
In sub-section (2), line 42, to delete the word "fifty" and substitute the word "twenty."
I know that the amount specified here, an excise penalty of £50, can be looked upon as a moderate fine as compared with the fine of £200 in Section 22, but to my mind it is a different matter altogether for a man to go on to a course and receive money in betting without having a licence. In this case, whether he is a licensed bookmaker or not, if for some reason or other he raises the slightest objection to the Guards visiting his premises for the purpose of getting any documents that they think necessary, he is liable to a penalty of £50. In comparison with the fine in the other section, I do not think that is right at all. The section does not say whether the fine is for the first offence, the second or the third offence. It does not say how much he will have to pay for a second or third offence. It simply says that on summary conviction thereof he shall be liable to an excise penalty of £50. I would like to know whether it would be advisable for the Minister to make this a criminal offence and add to a penalty not exceeding £50 "or six months in prison with or without hard labour." To my mind the fine is too great altogether for a first offence. A man probably may not understand the law or the Act. He may be a bit excited when the Guards visit his premises. He may have some domestic trouble or he may not be in the best of humour. He may use some offensive words towards the Guards and he is then summoned before a court and fined a sum not exceeding £50. I know he can be fined as low as £1 or 10/- but the justice can fine him £50 if he wishes. I think that amount is too great, particularly for a first offence. The offence may be altogether unintentional and I would like the Minister to accept the amendment to reduce the fine. That is quite enough as a maximum for the first offence. I do not mind whether the Minister makes the second offence either £20 or £50 fine, but by this you are giving the justice an opportunity of fining a man £50 for a technical offence.
In the case of an excise penalty where there is a specific penalty laid down, the Justice has power to mitigate to one-fourth, so that in case a person were convicted the Justice need not fine him in actual practice more than £12 10s. I think that really a fairly substantial penalty must be imposed on people who would commit the offence dealt with here. There will be undoubtedly every attempt at evasion and it must be possible for the officers of Customs and Excise or the Gárda Síochána to see the books promptly whenever they require to see them, so that persons who are trying to evade the tax will not have opportunities of making rectifications.
If there is an objection to this section at all it is the fact that the minimum is too high, not that the maximum is too high. It may be that a technical offence has been committed, and if the law did not tie up the Justice he would think that a smaller fine would meet the case.
This is a maximum.
I know it is a maximum, but if it errs at all it is on the side of the minimum. I can see cases where a Justice would come to the conclusion from the evidence that a £50 penalty should be inflicted. Circumstances could arise that would justify it, and I would not depart from it. I would like to reduce the minimum to a smaller amount. I can quite imagine technical offences being committed where £12 10s. would be too much.
I quite agree with Deputy Gorey's contention. It is perfectly true, as the Minister has said, that the District Justice may remit three-fourths of the penalty. He may only impose one-fourth, but if he does it is still very high, as it amounts to £12 10s. Would it be possible, I wonder, for the Minister to keep the maximum at £50, and to insert words to the effect that for a first offence the fine should not be more than £5? If that were possible, it would, I think, meet the case.
If the Minister were ready to accept the amendment, that would meet the point raised by Deputy Gorey and Deputy Redmond.
No, it would not.
It would, I think, as far as the first offence is concerned, that is if the District Justice is confined to a fine of £5. If the Minister is prepared to agree to the suggestion made, that the minimum fine should be £5, I certainly would have no hesitation in withdrawing the amendment. I think that for a first offence under this Act the minimum fine should not be more than £5. It will take a long time before the people get to understand the Act. People may commit a technical offence, and for such a technical offence the District Justice will be obliged to fine them the minimum amount mentioned by the Minister, namely £12 10s. They may not be aware that they were committing an offence at all.
I do not think there is much danger of people inadvertently committing an offence under this particular section. There might be other laws which a person would break without knowing that they were committing an offence, but a person is not going to "resist, obstruct or impede an officer of Customs and Excise or a member of the Gárda Síochána" from entering their premises or searching for books or documents without being aware that he is doing it. Neither is a person going to refuse to produce books or documents without being aware that he is committing an offence. If by any chance there was some case where there was an offence inadvertently committed there is, of course, the further power of remission with the Revenue Commissioners. That is, the District Justice will fine the person £50, but if he thinks the circumstances are suitable and require it, he can mitigate the penalty to £12 10s. If he thinks that it should be further mitigated he can forward a recommendation to the Revenue Commissioners to that effect. In general, I think there will be very few offences committed under this section that ought not to merit the penalty of £12 10s. Remember that the refusal to produce a document may enable the person to rectify his books so that he would be able to save himself if he gains a respite of an hour or two. During that hour or two he may so alter his books and documents that he would be able to make away with a very large sum.
Some will do that.
I think it would certainly be very undesirable to accept Deputy Lyons's amendment, and that any further reduction of the minimum by some different sort of amendment is not necessary or desirable.
I would just like to say that I cannot agree with the Minister in this. I think the people who are likely to refuse to produce books and documents will not be the wealthy bookmakers or people with something to lose, but rather the poorer class. Therefore, as Deputy Redmond suggests, a fine of £5 would be a very big sum for a poor man to have to pay. The District Justice who heard the case would have the power to fine him £50. It is only in cases where certain excuses are made and where it is a first offence that it is suggested the District Justice should be able to make a recommendation to mitigate to £5. I think that in this matter the Minister is rather drastic, and that Deputy Redmond's suggestion of a £5 minimum fine is reasonable.
I take it that if the suggestion to have £5 as a minimum were embodied in the Bill it could only be by reducing the maximum.
I would not agree to that.
The Deputy says he would not agree, but I am afraid that the proposition inevitably involves that. I do not know what the law relating to excise penalties may be. As far as I can gather from the discussion there is no question of a sum not exceeding £50 or £500, as the case may be, but there is a fixed penalty for a definite offence, and what is in fact a kind of appeal to the discretion of the District Justice in respect to mitigation from that fixed penalty. I gather from the Minister that the mitigation is only exercised in respect of three-fourths, and that it may be reduced to one-fourth. I suppose that is part of the excise law. If there is to be an exception made only in reference to this particular offence in respect of the amount allowed to be mitigated, it seems to me to be a wrong way of approaching the question. If the general desire is that the powers of mitigation should extend to as low as five per cent. of the fixed penalty, then let it be done by a general amendment of the excise law, but not in respect to a particular offence under this section. The argument of Deputy Gorey is clear that he would be prepared even to extend the maximum beyond the £50.
I did not say so.
Well, the Deputy is not prepared to lower it.
I can imagine an aggravated offence where the full penalty would be justified.
As the Deputy is not prepared to lower that maximum we should need to alter the general law as well as the powers of the District Justice to mitigate. I think the Minister has met that point by saying that the power of the District Justice extends beyond a mitigation—to a recommendation to the Revenue Commissioners still further to remit, and if he were convinced that the offence was a trivial one, that there was no aggravated criminal intent, and that he felt that the sum of í12 10s. was more than sufficient, he would no doubt make a recommendation for a further mitigation. I make the point particularly that if you are going to alter the law relating to the powers of the District Justice respecting the mitigation of penalties, it had better be done in a general way and not by having reference particularly to these offences.
Deputy Johnson's suggestion, to my mind, does not hold water, for I do not see why it cannot be stated clearly that the penalty shall not be less than £5 and not more than £50. The general law as regards mitigation refers to the maximum and not to the minimum. If it is stated that the minimum shall be £5, well, then the District Justice shall have no power to mitigate; it is only in regard to the maximum that the District Justice has the power. I cannot see why it should not be perfectly clearly stated that there shall be a penalty of not less than £5 and not more than £50. In regard to the £5 the District Justice will not have the power to mitigate, but in regard to the £50 he will have the power. I cannot see any difficulty in the matter, if the Minister so desires.
I think that a general legal policy has developed with regard to evasion of taxation. Experience has been operating, and certain general arrangements have been adopted. These arrangements include something more stringent and something more rigid in the way of penalties than the penalties for normal offences. I certainly would not desire to depart from the general principles that are applied in connection with other revenue offences. I would not like to make some special arrangement here for this particular matter which does not exist in regard to other offences of evading revenue. There is no doubt that, unless there is a fairly stiff penalty, and unless there is a certain amount of rigidity about it, people would be tempted to carry on frauds, and when a person came to inspect their books they would refuse to produce them and would make alterations in them, and then allow them to be inspected on a second demand and pay their penalty. The District Justice covers a very limited district, and that is one of the reasons why the full discretion in the matter of mitigation is not given to the District Justice, but is given in the last resort to the Revenue Commissioners, so as to get a sort of uniformity, and also to take into account the prevalence of a particular class of revenue offence in particular areas, whether it is spreading over the country or not, and circumstances of that character which are more fully known to the Revenue Commissioners than they would be to the individual District Justices.
I would like to know if a further recommendation for mitigation is only possible on a certificate or a recommendation to that effect from the District Justice or whether the Commissioners would have power apart from a recommendation of the District Justice to mitigate?
They would have power to mitigate without a recommendation from the District Justice, but they would not do it without such recommendation.
We may assume that they would not do it in any case, whether they get the recommendation or not.
To add at the end of sub-section
(2) the following words "and shall be paid and collected by means of stamps denoting the amount of such duty impressed on such licences and renewals, and the Stamp Duties Management Act, 1891, shall apply to such duty and stamps."
This is to provide for the payment being made by means of an imprest stamp.
To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
"(3) It shall not be lawful to issue a licence for dealing in game which is liable to the duty imposed by this section nor any renewal of any such licence unless or until such licence or renewal has been duly stamped under this section in respect of such duty and every person who issues any such licence or renewal in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to an excise penalty of five pounds."
That is consequential.
"Before Section 36 to insert a new section as follows:—
"On and after the 1st day of July, 1926, five shillings shall be substituted for £1—
(a) as thead valorem stamp duty imposed by sections one hundred and twelve and one hundred and thirteen of the Stamp Act, 1891, as extended by section twelve of the Finance Act, 1896, on statements as regards the capital of the companies referred to in those sections; and
(b) as thead valorem stamp duty payable under or by virtue of any private Act on any statements as regards the capital of any company; and
(c) as thead valorem stamp duty imposed by section eleven of the Limited Partnerships Act, 1907, on statements with regard to the amounts contributed by limited partners to limited partnerships.”
The object of this is to enable companies to be registered here at the cost of 5/- per cent. instead of as at present £1 per cent. This stamp duty, or capital duty, was originally 2/- per £100 for nominal capital. That was in the Stamp Act of 1891. Then it was increased to 5/-in the Finance Act of 1899, and in 1920 the capital duty imposed by the Act of 1891 and the Act of 1899, as well as the capital duty payable under any private Act, under the Limited Partnerships Act of 1897, was increased to £1. This was done in 1920, as was a great deal of our taxation, for war purposes. I think the Minister is already conversant with the feelings of a great many commercial people in the Saorstát with regard to the proposed reduction. The advantage to the State would be that it would facilitate companies in registering here. It would be an inducement for companies with Irish prospects, and probably with Irish capital, to register in the Saorstát instead of registering as a great many of them do at present in Great Britain. Take, for instance, the case of Messrs. Guinness, a great Irish concern, and yet it is a registered British company.
Is the Deputy holding out any hope that this firm will change its domicile to this country?
That is the object of my amendment. According to the present law it would take a colossal sum, probably £500,000, if Messrs. Guinness wanted to register in the Saorstát. If the percentage were reduced from £1 to 5/- it would be of very minor importance.
I do not want to let the Deputy give a wrong impression. If we reduce the registration fee to nothing would Messrs. Guinness change over?
I cannot say I speak for them.
You see I know a little about it.
I am sure the Minister knows a little about it, and I said that originally. I presume it would be beneficial, but I do not presume to speak for Messrs. Guinness. I wish by reason of possession of their shares I was able to do so. I am only giving Guinness as an instance where it would be an inducement—I do not say for a moment whether it would— for them to register here instead of in Great Britain. The advantage to the Government of the Saorstát, and to the Saorstát itself, by their registering here, or by any other company registering here, is to be found in the duties that would accrue to the Free State Exchequer which now accrue to the Exchequer of Great Britain. Perhaps I will make myself clearer when I say, supposing a person has shares in a concern—I will take Guinness again—and he is resident in the Saorstát and he died here, the death duties are payable not to the Saorstát but to the British Exchequer.
I am suggesting that if the company were registered here it would mean that the duties would be payable here instead, and furthermore, it would give an impetus—I do not say that it would immediately mean that you would have a great crop of companies growing up to-morrow morning, but it will, at any rate, be some sort of an inducement—to commercial people to form companies in the Saorstát and register here instead of elsewhere. Besides that it would mean that these death duties payable now to the country in which the company is registered would accrue and be payable to our own exchequer. If that were so I think it would be a substantial advantage. I put down this amendment for the special purpose of hearing what the Minister has to say and I hope he will give us some information.
I do not propose to accept this amendment. I do not think it would give us any advantage and it would mean an immediate loss of £15,000 a year. The Deputy talks about Guinness's. If we thought a company like that would come over, if we had any grounds to think they would be prepared to register here instead of England, we would go further than the amendment proposed, but there is not the slightest possibility of that. It is really misleading to refer to the case of Guinness's in this particular connection. So far as death duties are concerned we can get the advantages in another way. The position at present is that if a person domiciled in the Saorstát holds shares in Guinness's those shares are subject to double taxation. They are taxed in Great Britain because they are property situated there, and the company is registered and controlled in Great Britain, and they are then taxed here because they are the property of persons domiciled here, so in practice the tax is divided, but if the firm of Guinness had a colonial register situated here in which the shares held in Ireland were registered, then the shares would be situated here where the colonial register was, and we would get all the death duties.
We propose to take steps, where a firm carries on business here and has Irish shareholders, that it shall be necessary to have a register here for these shares. This is a matter that has been under consideration for some time. Unfortunately, it has not been possible yet to deal with the matter, but I may say if we had been able to take action before this it would have meant £160,000 for the Exchequer in the case of a recent death. We can get the results that are desired for the Exchequer by proceeding with the necessary measures to ensure that a company doing business here and having Free State shareholders shall have a register here, but there are disadvantages to the Exchequer in encouraging—that is passing away from the question of big companies or companies already existing—the formation of numerous small companies. The whole question of the administration of death duties is really made more difficult by the setting up of those companies. The people who turn their businesses into limited liability companies secure a definite advantage, and I do not think the registration fee charged at present is too heavy for the advantages which individuals get by turning their businesses into limited liability companies, and I would not be inclined to accept the amendment. It would mean an immediate loss, and we would not get by it what we may get by other means.
I am glad I put down this amendment, because I am more than pleased to hear that the Minister has in mind a proposition whereby he will insist on companies registering in some shape or form in this country, and thereby enable the Exchequer to reap a certain amount of benefit. Probably, as he said, that would have reaped within the last few months a great benefit by death duty. The Minister does not like small things, not only small meetings, but small companies, but however that may be, I think the purpose of my amendment has been sufficiently met by the assurance, which I welcome, that he has considered the position of the Free State in regard to those death duties, and I hope he will soon be able to bring in the proposals he has already spoken of.
I think one has to admire, always, the brutal frankness of the Minister, but one wonders whether he really intended to invite the House to discuss and vote upon a vote of want of confidence when he told us that he had let slip by, owing to indifference or unwillingness to propose a measure in time, £160,000. That kind of confession usually comes from somebody else and I think it would be worth while for the Dáil, or even the Seanad, to sit for another month if he would propose a measure which would obviate the risk of that happening again.
Does the same position apply as far as the National Bank is concerned?
The National Bank has voluntarily established a Saorstát Register.
I beg to move:
Before Section 36 to insert a new section as follows:—
"The following exemption shall be substituted for exemption number (6) under the heading ‘Receipt given for, or upon the payment of, money amounting to two pounds or upwards' in the First Schedule to the Stamp Act, 1891:—
(6) Receipt given for or on account of any salary, pay or wages, or for or on account of any other like payment made to or for the benefit of any person, being the holder of an office or an employee, in respect of his office or employment, or for or on account of money paid in respect of any pension, superannuation allowance, compassionate allowance or other like allowance."
Under the Stamps Act of 1891 a receipt stamp is required on receipts for wages, salaries and all such allowances over £2, but I am sure the Minister knows well that that section of the Act is not generally observed. The fact, at the moment, is that only public servants pay receipt stamp duty. The Minister knows, I am sure, that the section is being evaded and ignored by those in outside employment. Public servants are the people who are now left to pay receipt stamp duty under this particular Act. That duty operates, I think, rather unfairly. An officer who is paid monthly affixes only 12 stamps yearly, and an officer who is paid weekly affixes 52 stamps, so that the poorest paid officer has to pay most frequently. Relief has already been given from this duty in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and I suggest that the Minister should give similar relief here and remove an anomaly which exists between public servants and outside employees.
This is an amendment about which I cannot say that I feel very strongly. I admit that there is something in what the Deputy says. The amount involved would not be very large, and, so far as Government employees are concerned, it would be about £5,000 or £6,000 per annum. It is difficult for us to estimate what the effect would be in regard to outside employees. Undoubtedly, Government employees are not the only people who pay this duty. Others pay it, but I am not in a position to have any firm estimate. It may possibly run up to about £10,000. I do not think, without conducting an investigation that would be disproportionately costly, it would be possible to get a fair estimate of what the total cost of the concession would be. As regards Government employees, they, at any rate, entered the Government employment knowing that this particular stamp duty would be required of them. If they have to pay it when other people have not, many of them have certain alvantages in being in Government employment, and, perhaps, the matter is equalised in that way. In any case it would mean, so far as the Government services is concerned, a loss of between £5,000 and £6,000 a year. As I say, it would mean giving some little advantage to people which they had no reason to expect when they entered the service, and, as their conditions are somewhat different, they have no reason to expect that, because outside employees are not obliged to pay it, they should not have to pay.
The Minister's defence of this little tax is in line with his statement of last year on the same subject. I had hoped that after twelve months' cogitation and "wet-towelling" he would have arrived at a right conclusion on the matter. He says that the Government employees, when entering the Government service, knew that this tax was to be charged, and, therefore, that they are at no disadvantage when it is charged. If there is any justice in assuming that Government employees entered the Government service with that knowledge, one can say that the law is applicable to all persons whether in Government employment or outside. It is when the Government employee finds that he is being singled out in this respect that the irritant arises. The amount is not tremendous. I think it is 8/8 a year for the weekly wage earner. That is a consideration, and in practice, whatever the law may be, there is a distinction in the singling out of Government employees for the payment of this duty. That has been recognised in Great Britain, where the law has been adjusted with the facts. Five or six thousand pounds a year is a consideration, but 8/8 is a much greater consideration to an individual than is five or six thousands pounds a year to the State. If only on the grounds on which the Minister conceded Deputy Redmond's plea, the saving of printing year after year, it would be well to consider the remission of this tax. It is a small one, but it is an irritant, and it is a pity to allow that irritant to remain.
The Minister based his case on the civil servant as against the post office employee who is paid weekly. The Minister appears to think that every post office employee is in a very enviable position. I want to remind the Minister that men who receive £2 5s., £2 10s., £2 15s., or £3 a week pay 8/8 a year, and, comparing that employee in the post office with an outside employee, I do not think that the latter has anything to covet. There might be something in the case of an officer in the Civil Service who is paid £600 or £700 a year, but I maintain that the Minister has made no case that the people to whom I refer, the weekly wage earners, should pay this imposition when those in outside employment do not pay it. The Minister gets his income tax regularly from the Government servants, as they have no escape. I think that he should grant this relief, which has already been granted in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As he has given no concession this year in his Budget statement, I think he could reasonably accept this amendment. In any event, the cost of printing this amendment year after year until it is accepted will more than outweigh any loss to the Exchequer.
This amendment is not trivial in the sense that Deputy Redmond's amendment was trivial. Deputy Redmond's amendment involved £80 a year. That, I think, could rightly be described as trivial, when dealing with taxation. This amendment involves somewhat more. I do not feel that I have a very cast-iron case against it. On the other hand, I do not think there is a very good case for it. Government employees are not the only people affected in this way. There are probably as many other people affected, outside Government employees, though we could not be sure of the number. Consequently, there is no definite discrimination against Government employees. Certain employers, by adopting different methods of paying wages, avoid the necessity for this stamp. We might sacrifice £10,000 a year—we would certainly sacrifice £5,000 or £6,000—by adopting this amendment, and we would not give any great relief to anybody.
Would the Minister consider raising the amount of wages for which a stamp would be required to, say, £5 per week, and deal with the matter from that point of view? There would, I think, be a considerable outcry if this tax of 8/8 were imposed by way of income tax on an income of, say, £2 5s. per week. If thought of in terms of income tax, it is a considerable sum comparatively. If the Minister is not prepared to give it away entirely, perhaps he would give consideration to the question of fixing the wage-sum at some figure over £2 per week on which it would be required.
I will consider that suggestion. Two pounds per week is less now than it was some years ago.
Is the Minister aware that even the men employed by the Land Commission on relief works who were earning 24/- or 25/- per week had to pay this 2d. per week?
I will consider the matter on the lines suggested by Deputy Johnson.
I move amendment 39:—
In sub-section (1), page 14, line 30, to delete the word "to" at the beginning of the line.
This is merely a drafting amendment.
I move amendment 40:—
In sub-section (3), page 14, line 50, after the word "Judge" to insert the words "or Justice."
This is also a drafting amendment.
I do not intend to move this amendment at present. The drafting is not correct. It will be moved in altered form on Report Stage.
I move amendment 42:—
In paragraph 6, page 21, line 46, to delete all words after the words "Inland Revenue Act, 1888," to the end of sub-paragraph (b), line 51.
The purpose of this amendment, which is perhaps rather obscure, is to apply the exemption which is given to taxi-cabs of Ford make, registered as such before 21st April, to all vehicles licensed to ply as taxi-cabs—that they all pay a flat rate of £12, which is, I understand, the rate they were paying until the introduction of the Finance Bill. I put forward the plea that we should retain the taxation on these taxi-cabs at a flat rate on two grounds. One is the convenience of the public. It is better, in many ways, that the driver of a taxi-cab licensed for hire should keep a second-hand car of a better type and quality, rather than that he should be invited and encouraged by the Minister to keep a second-hand Ford which, in its later stages, is not the most comfortable or the most accommodating of vehicles. As matters stand, the better the type and quality of the taxi-cab the higher the tax the driver will have to pay. I do not think that is entirely in the public interest. It is not as if there was discrimination. It is not as if a man with a good car plying for hire could earn more than the man plying for hire with a cheap car. When you go to the hazard, you have to take the first taxi-cab there. You are not enabled, as a rule, to pick and choose. The man with the good car is not in a position to earn more than the man with a bad car. Therefore, I suggest that it is not quite fair to ask him to pay taxation at a higher rate.
Secondly, I make the plea on account of the position of the man himself. These owners of taxi-cabs— there is not a very large number of them—would have sunk their savings in a comfortable car, when embarking on business, in the belief that their rate of taxation would be under £12. The sliding scale proposed by the Minister will raise that rate of taxation in many cases to £14 and in some cases to £16 or £20. On a man who is not a rich man, and whose fares are limited by the police authority, such an increase in taxation does mean a substantial loss. On the other hand, I do not think the loss to the Revenue by the change suggested would be very great. I do not think in equity that there is any real claim to increase further the revenue from this source. The taxi-cabs licensed on the conditions laid down in this Schedule use the roads in the towns principally. It is comparatively seldom that they go into the country. This taxi-cab is not a particularly heavy vehicle, and it is not, as a rule, a particularly speedy vehicle. It does not wear out the roads to any excessive or disproportionate extent. In view of the fact that the amount of revenue involved is comparatively small, the Minister might reasonably make some concession in this direction.
I support the Deputy in his appeal to the Minister. Deputies may not be aware that there are two types of taxi. There is the garage taxi, which one rings up for, and there is the street taxi. The owner of the ordinary street taxi has his fares limited by police regulations. A definite scale is laid down. The garage taxi has not its fares limited in the same way. That class of taxi can charge the public so as to make up for this increase, whereas the street taxi cannot do so. The fares for the street taxi were fixed by police regulations, and sanctioned, I think, by Judge Dromgoole. Some of these street taxi-owners bought a big type of second-hand car, the tax on which is now likely to be raised from the flat rate of £12 to a sum of £20. That is practically an increase of £8, while the driver is allowed nothing to play with but has to charge according to the scale fixed by police regulations. There are not, I understand, many of these cars that will have to pay the increased rate, but at least some of them will. I think it is unfair that these men should have the taxation charge increased while their fares remain the same.
I think the Minister might meet the point made by Deputy Cooper and see these men with cars not benefited by the Act—these owners of street taxis— should not be in the position of having this licence duty increased upon them while they have no right to increase their fares. It will only mean that those men with higher-power engine cars on the street will have to apply to the authorities for a revision of the fares already sanctioned and that, eventually, the public will have to pay. The new conditions are a great hardship upon those men. It will mean in some cases increases of £4, £5, or £6, and, possibly, in other cases an increase of from £12 to £20, as the rates are now fixed. Considering the small amount involved to the revenue, I think the Minister might well give way to the appeal made to him by Deputy Cooper.
It is, I think, desirable that we should get away from the special rates charged for hackney cars. The existence of a special rate for hackneys has always caused difficulty —in the country especially. We have had cars registered as hackneys by all sorts of people who never used them as hackneys. To get convictions is difficult. It is not easy to deal with a person who avoids paying the tax he ought to pay by registering his vehicle as a taxi. That is one of the main reasons why we came to the conclusion that hackney cars ought to pay the ordinary duty on private cars. I would not be inclined to agree to the amendment. Certain street drivers will probably gain a little by being charged as for private cars. Some of them now paying £12 will, under the new conditions, only pay £11. In general, I think the new payment will probably be £14. Some few will go up to £16, and there may be a very few who will go up to a higher rate.
It would be very easy to make too much of the argument that when these people bought the cabs they have they thought they would have to pay a particular rate of duty and that it is unfair and harsh to ask them to pay more now. The probability is that when they bought their cars the roads were not in anything like as good condition as they are now. The difference in the extra duty will be more than made up to these people by saving on tyres following the improvement in the roads. If we liked to argue the matter out, I think it could fairly be said that because of the improvements that have been made in the roads and because of the further improvements it is proposed to make in the roads by enabling the Minister for Local Government to borrow a sum of £2,000,000, these people will be more than recouped for any loss that they will sustain from increased duties.
All these increases were suggested for the purpose of increasing the income of the Road Fund, and so make it possible for the Road Fund to borrow some sum like this £2,000,000 for the permanent improvement of the roads more rapidly than would be possible if the income of the fund had been simply expended from year to year. It is fair that the taxi-cab drivers, who do perhaps use the roads more than anybody else, should make some little contribution towards the improvement which will save them considerably in the actual maintenance cost of their cars.
I was careful to state the purpose of my amendment, because I was not entirely satisfied with its drafting. I think the Minister has taken his argument on too general a ground. As far as private owners registering their cars as hackneys and evading taxation, that seems to me a matter for the licensing authority. If that authority has been lax, it can be made to take this matter more seriously. I would like to narrow the argument down to taxi-cabs licensed to ply for hire in Dublin. They are in a position which other taxi-cabs are not in. They have a fixed scale of fares, regulated by taximeters. They cannot increase those fares, whatever increased charges they have to pay themselves. That is not the position of taxi-cabs which work from garages. They can increase the scale of their charges. It is said that it is open to the city taxi-cab owners to agitate for permission to increase their fares, but I think, on the whole, that would cause a great waste of time, and would involve trouble and considerable expense on the part of those men who have taxis in the city.
I cannot accept the point made by the Minister with regard to the use of the roads. These taxi-cabs for the most part ply in Dublin and the neighbouring towns, and they derive comparatively small advantage from the Road Fund. And rightly so, because the roads in and near the city were not in such a bad condition as to need it. This £2,000,000 Road Fund is not going to advantage the taxi-cab driver except possibly when he goes to Punchestown or Fairyhouse. When going on such journeys as these one does not usually take a taxi-cab on the street if you can help it, because they are not very satisfactory for such journeys, and the taxi-cab driver does not want to go because the scale of fares is not too generous for long journeys. City taxis will derive little or no benefit practically from that £2,000,000. They will derive benefit from the street improvements effected by the Dublin Corporation, but these improvements are paid for out of the rates. I do not think the Minister met my case fairly.
Lastly, I do not think the Minister met me fairly on this point. I would like to remind him that by putting this additional tax on the best type of car he will be penalising the man who has had a little vision and enterprise and who was prepared to sink a little more capital in order to give a better service to his patrons. Perhaps the Minister would examine this question before the Report Stage and see if it is not possible to meet the case of the taxi-drivers. We are not asking him to sacrifice a great deal of revenue. The taxi-drivers in Dublin deserve this concession, and I think it is a case in which the Minister might reasonably give way in order to avoid hardship.
I would like to support what has been said by Deputy Cooper on this matter. The opposition of the Minister is based entirely upon the assumption that the taxi-cab owners will be benefited by the expenditure out of the Road Fund on the country roads and on the fact that there was evasion whereby other cars, by registration as hackney-cars, got the benefit accruing to real hackney-cars. That does not at all meet the case of the licensed hackney-car whose fare is fixed by an automatic taximeter.
I desire to add my plea that that particular class of car in connection with which charges are fixed by regulations of public authorities and by the mechanical means of the taximeter should come under the duty of £12. The case is one of very great importance to men who are doing a good service and are making a living by a useful occupation. This is going to be a pretty heavy burden upon them, and I hope the Minister will agree to the proposition in general and find some formula which would allow him to relieve these men in the city and the townships around Dublin of the increased charge upon their earnings which this proposal involves.
I want to support a plea made by Deputy Cooper for some concession for these taxi-drivers who ply for hire on the streets of Dublin. I know from experience that taxi-driving is not a lucrative occupation. The maintenance of a car, expenditure on petrol and oil, and the need of keeping the car in such a condition that it will periodically receive the approval of the police authorities, involves a lot of money. I know that taxi-drivers are out from 10 o'clock in the morning until 10, 11 and 12 o'clock at night endeavouring to make sufficient to give them a fair wage and provide the essentials to keep their cars running. About 90 per cent. of the taxi-cabs on the Dublin streets are owned by the people driving them. With the exception of one or two firms that have taxi-cabs plying for hire, the individuals who drive own the remainder of the cabs, and they rely on the cabs as a means of livelihood. It would be unfair to put these people in the position of having to pay an increased charge for licences.
The Minister has mentioned that these people would receive benefit in the way of improved roads which would be provided for by the taxation received under the section. The men driving the Ford car will also benefit by an improvement in the roads. The benefit will not be confined solely to the men paying £14, £16, or £18; it will be universal. If the driver of the Ford car derives benefit from improved roads without having to pay such a high licence fee, I think it is only just that the licence in the case of taxi-drivers should be reduced to the Ford car level. The amount of revenue involved as far as Dublin City and the surrounding townships are concerned would be small. In the case of taxi-drivers the fares are fixed by court. The Minister should accede to the plea to give exceptional and preferential treatment to taxi-drivers in Dublin City and County.
In order to meet Deputy Cooper in this matter I will undertake to consult with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health and consider further the question of hackney cabs of the type that are fitted with taximeters, not the ordinary taxi.
I accept that undertaking and I desire to withdraw the amendment.
took the Chair.